A lesson in loving jazz
School was in session at Massey Hall last night, when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra rolled into town.
Billed as The Songs We Love, the show consisted of tunes that anchor the Great American Songbook, such as “Tea for Two” and “My Favourite Things.”
“These are all songs that you know … we’re going to play them so well up here, we’re going to make you love them again,” declared Wynton Marsalis as the band launched into “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
With the trumpet ace steering from the back row, the tight 15-man ensemble – potent horns, precisely arranged, and a spirited rhythm section – succeeded by delivering two exciting sets of music.
Although this was just the second date of their 13-city tour, the group plays constantly at their eponymous $128 million headquarters in Manhattan.
And despite the egalitarian attire – grey suits, white shirts and collegiate ties – the stars shone early.
Trumpeter Marcus Printup exploded with such vigour and clarity during his “Blue Skies” solo that it seemed as if he were continuing where he’d left off when he got the spotlight again a few songs later in “A Night in Tunisia.”
And baritone saxist Joe Temperley’s wistful rendering of “My Funny Valentine” – buoyed by the steady swell of his bandmates – drew the night’s biggest applause.
The leader mostly lay back but showcased his own virtuosic technique and sophisticated ideas during “Stardust,” which closed the first set.
Noted jazz advocate Marsalis didn’t just announce song titles, he took the opportunity to inform. Thus, the arrangement of “Fascinating Rhythm,” courtesy of Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman, was an example of the desegregating of jazz bands and “Tea for Two” allowed a subtle jab at the media, because arranger Don Redmond “was college-educated, so he wasn’t written about much.”
The mostly over-40 capacity crowd would’ve been familiar with the historical references, but they still responded to Marsalis’s lighthearted lessons.
However, it was not what was said but what was played that made the greatest impact on the night’s younger attendees.
“I wasn’t aware the baritone sax could be played like that – so soulfully,” said 16-year-old trombone player Tony Paxton. He was one of 60 music students who received tickets and got to meet Marsalis through Massey Hall’s arts outreach program called Share the Music.
Trumpet player Paul Lee, 17, said Marsalis’s playing made him “speechless.”
“I was planning not to practise this week, because we’re on March Break, but this made me change my mind.”
By: Ashante Infantry
Source: Toronto Star