Drawing from previous Columbia albums that were originally released between 1983 and 1999, this compilation serves as a best of collection when it comes to jazz’s traditional partnership with the romantic song. It’s a love-fest. What’s more, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis shares his passion for these fourteen chestnuts with his audience fluently, readily and sincerely.

Whether it’s the open horn on “Embraceable You” with piano trio or the muted Louis Armstrong tribute on “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” Marsalis lays it down accurately. He gets his point across. With strings, as on “Stardust,” he’s in ecstasy, just sitting back comfortably and letting the emotion flow.

The trumpeter has been criticized for several decades. That kind of discussion seems to follow fame like a lost dog on a country road. Just when you think it’s gone, you see it again over your left shoulder. Marsalis never deserved most of the criticism that was shoveled his way. Not for his trumpet playing, that is. He remains one of the best there is. Technically brilliant, rich in tone, fluid in seamless transition and conservative in his approach to improvisation, he marks the center of what jazz is.

From the soundtrack to the enjoyable but sadly overlooked film Tune in Tomorrow (1990), Marsalis fronts his big band for “I Can’t Get Started,” with Shirley Horn singing in her inimitable manner.

From Hot House Flowers (Columbia, 1984), the trumpeter moves “Melancholia” in dense harmonic patterns with large orchestra, creating an unforgettable impression.

From Citi Movement (Columbia, 1993), he opens up on “Spring Yaoundé” with similar results. These two and several others are not standards per se, but Marsalis has cast them in the image with suitable impressions. He squeezes out each emotional tone as if they were old friends. Reminiscing on these timeless themes makes for an interesting start to the New Year.

Track Listing

When It’s Sleepytime Down South 5:11 Play
Stardust 4:11 Play
Embraceable You 7:16 Play
Reflections 6:19 Play
After You’ve Gone 5:44 Play
The Seductress 2:55 Play
My Ideal 6:20 Play
Spring Yaounde 6:03 Play
Melancholia 5:10 Play
Where Or When 2:52 Play
I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry 5:58 Play
April In Paris 5:06 Play
I Can’t Get Started 5:23 Play
Flamingo 3:22 Play

Liner Notes

There is something pleasurably safe in feeling about what we call standards. They are songs that seem to say, “No matter who or what you are, you are welcome. Come on in. Pull up a seat. Enjoy yourself.”

One of the reasons they remain so capable of providing enjoyment for the listener is that standards have established a body of melody and emotion that have timeless accuracy in human terms. They are so timeless that listeners recognize themselves in the songs decade after decade, which is why they are also called “evergreens,” or songs that maintain their communicative powers beyond time and place. They are beyond style and are never reduced by the succession of whimsical but short-lived responses we call trends.

Standards have long served jazz musicians well because they have been the very best bridges to a mass audience. The audience members are provided with the painless bridge into the world of jazz, which is why they have responded so well over the years to standards played by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, among many others, including jazz singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, and Betty Carter.

Wynton Marsalis, the most important jazz musician of his generation, understands this quite well and is perfectly aware of the communicative power that standards give to an instrumentalist or a singer. “Standards supply something that is usually pretty, or so pretty that both the musician and the listener agree upon how good they make them feel. A musician is always looking for something that is high quality but also accessible, something that will pull the audience in instead of pushing it away and something that creates a dialogue with the titans of the idiom. Because we improvise in jazz we always have the freedom to be individuals and have a conversation, sort of, with the accomplishments of the great individuals who have made jazz what it is. When you play a great standard you are in the arena of high accomplishment because of what musicians like Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker have done with these songs. These songs also come from the golden age of popular song writing that has never been challenged by the composers that came after giants like George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.”

Standards usually call for some kind of singing and some kind of swinging. The instrumentalist is challenged not only to make us hear the words but to feel that special rhythmic feeling that comes from jazz alone. Those who do not know the words of songs do not give the best renditions of the songs.

There is a very famous story about the great tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, who was known to croon through his horn with a melting level of power that has never been exceeded. Webster left the stage visibly upset after a performance, explaining when asked what was wrong that he had forgotten the words to the song he was playing. Knowing the words assist the instrumentalist in interpreting the notes in invaluable ways. Then the instrumentalist moves as close as possible to the capital of feeling inhabited by our greatest singers.

This CD opens with Louis Armstrong’s theme song, “When It’s Sleepytime Down South” and ends with “Flamingo,” a song not written by but strongly associated with Duke Ellington because of the great interpretations done by his singers and the superb arrangements written for the Ellington band. Between those two songs we hear a varied selection of standards performed by small groups or Marsalis as featured soloist with strings. There is great variety to the melodies included and a range of emotion we should expect from a performer who has such a rich collection of songs to help him communicate with his audience.

There is nothing more impressive in the world of music than that moment when the artist connects with his listeners through the depth and quality of emotion and virtuosity so strongly in place that every gesture in sound takes on a very natural feeling. One can hear that throughout this sweep of performances, which are delicate for the most part but can also hitch a song to a star and swing with sublime authority. Our arts exist primarily to speak to and for our humanity, that mysterious quality that has always been present as far back as we can research and as up to date as the present moment. The standard and the romantic ballad have qualities of recognition so true and deep that those materials help us to understand ourselves at the same time that they provide enjoyment.

“Even though I write a lot of music,” says Marsalis, “I have always loved to play standards because they create a mood of expectation from the audience, even if they do not know the standard. That is the most magical thing about standards. They communicate well to the novice as well as the experienced jazz listener, which is the perfect audience, primarily because at the moment of communication, all knowledge becomes equal. While we may not be equal in our skills, we seem to be equal in our humanity. That is something you learn from playing music all over the world. A man is a man, a woman is a woman, a child is a child and a teenager is a teenager — and music recognizes all of them perfectly. That is why we listen to it and why we play it.”

I think this recording will make clear exactly what Wynton Marsalis means. You have an excellent trip ahead of you.

— Stanley Crouch

Sidemen

Title From album Related

01 WHEN IT’S SLEEPYTIME DOWN SOUTH 5:10
(Leon Rene–Otis Rene–Clarence Muse)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET & BUCKET MUTE
Marcus Roberts PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded between September 1987 and August 1990 at BMG Studio A in New York City / Released 1991
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Standard Time Vol. 2: Intimacy Calling (CK 47346)
1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

02 STARDUST 4:09
(Hoagy Carmichael)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Branford Marsalis SOPRANO & TENOR SAXOPHONES
Kent Jordan ALTO FLUTE
Kenny Kirkland PIANO
Ron Carter BASS
Jeffrey Watts DRUMS
Recorded May 30–31, 1984 in New York City / Released 1984
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Hot House Flowers (CK 39530)
1984 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

03 EMBRACEABLE YOU 7:14
(George Gershwin–Ira Gershwin)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Marcus Roberts PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded between September 1987 and August 1990 at BMG Studio A in New York City / Released 1991
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Standard Time Vol. 2: Intimacy Calling (CK 47346)
1991 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

04 REFLECTIONS 6:17
(Thelonious Monk)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Wycliffe Gordon TROMBONE
Wes Anderson ALTO SAXOPHONE
Walter Blanding, Victor Goines TENOR SAXOPHONES
Eric Reed PIANO
Ben Wolfe or Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded between July 17 and September 18, 1993 in New York City / Released 1999
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Standard Time Vol. 4: Marsalis Plays Monk (CK 67503)

05 AFTER YOU’VE GONE 5:44
(Henry Creamer–Turner Layton)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Eric Reed PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Lewis Nash DRUMS
Recorded September 15–18, 1997 at the Grande Lodge of the Masonic Hall in New York City / Released 1998
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Standard Time Vol. 5: The Midnight Blues (CK 68921)
1998 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

06 THE SEDUCTRESS 2:55
(Wynton Marsalis)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET & VOCAL
Ellis Marsalis PIANO
Recorded November 11–12, 1989 in New York City / Released 1990
Produced by Delfeayo Marsalis
From: Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance (CK 46143)
1990 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

07 MY I DEAL 6:18
(Leo Robin–Richard A. Whiting–Newell Chase)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Branford Marsalis SOPRANO & TENOR SAXOPHONES
Kenny Kirkland PIANO
Phil Bowler BASS
Jeffrey Watts DRUMS
Recorded February 15–18, 1983 in New York City / Released 1983
Produced by Wynton Marsalis and Steve Epstein
From: Think Of One (CK 38641)
1983 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

08 SPRING YAOUNDE 5:59
(Wynton Marsalis)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Wes Anderson ALTO SAXOPHONE
Todd Williams SOPRANO & TENOR SAXOPHONES
Wycliffe Gordon TROMBONE
Eric Reed PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded July 27–28, 1992 at RCA Studio A in New York City / Released 1993
Produced by Delfeayo Marsalis
From: Citi Movement (C2K 53324)
1993 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

09 MELANCHOLIA 5:09
(Duke Ellington)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Branford Marsalis SOPRANO & TENOR SAXOPHONES
Kent Jordan ALTO FLUTE
Kenny Kirkland PIANO
Ron Carter BASS
Jeffrey Watts DRUMS
Recorded May 30–31, 1984 in New York City / Released 1984
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Hot House Flowers (CK 39530)
1984 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

10 WHERE OR WHEN 2:49
(Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET & VOCAL
Ellis Marsalis PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded November 11–12, 1989 in New York City / Released 1990
Produced by Delfeayo Marsalis
From: Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance (CK 46143)
1990 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

11 I GUESS I’LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY 5:56
(Sammy Cahn–Jule Styne)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Eric Reed PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Lewis Nash DRUMS
Recorded September 15–18, 1997 at the Grande Lodge of the Masonic Hall in New York City / Released 1998
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Standard Time Vol. 5: The Midnight Blues (CK 68921)
1998 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

12 APRIL IN PARIS 5:05
(Vernon Duke–E.Y. “Yip” Harburg)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Marcus Roberts (“J Master”) PIANO
Robert Leslie Hurst III BASS
Jeff “Tain” Watts DRUMS
Recorded May 29–30 or September 24–25, 1986 at RCA Studio A in New York City / Released 1987
Produced by Steve Epstein
From: Marsalis Standard Time Vol. 1 (CK 40461)
1987 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

13 I CAN’T GET STARTED 5:20
(Vernon Duke–Ira Gershwin)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET
Wycliffe Gordon TROMBONE
Alvin Batiste CLARINET
Todd Williams CLARINET, SOPRANO & TENOR SAXOPHONES
Wes Anderson ALTO SAXOPHONE
Herb Harris TENOR SAXOPHONE
Joe Temperley BARITONE SAXOPHONE
Marcus Roberts PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Shirley Horn VOCAL
Recorded 1990 at BMG/RCA Studios in New York City / Released 1990
Produced by Steve Epstein and Delfeayo Marsalis
From: Tune In Tomorrow soundtrack (CK 47044)
1990 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

14 FLAMINGO 3:21
(Ted Grouya–Ed Anderson)
Wynton Marsalis TRUMPET & VOCAL
Ellis Marsalis PIANO
Reginald Veal BASS
Herlin Riley DRUMS
Recorded November 11–12, 1989 in New York City / Released 1990
Produced by Delfeayo Marsalis
From: Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance (CK 46143)
1990 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT