Marsalis on Jazz: His five favorite classic recordings

Posted on September 17th, 2005 in Profiles & Interviews | Tags: billie holiday, charlie parker, duke ellington, john coltrane, thelonious monk, wall street journal

We caught up with Wynton Marsalis, the 43-year-old jazz trumpeter and composer, as he was preparing for the fall concert series at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he is artistic director. The new program salutes the great cities of jazz; tonight Mr. Marsalis and other artists will perform in a hurricane-relief benefit concert for New Orleans. Here, the Pulitzer-winning musician tells us why he thinks these five albums deserve consideration as the finest jazz recordings of all time.

*John Coltrane Quartet *
Impulse (1964)
“It’s like a suite of pieces that are all related, and Coltrane does a masterful thematic improvisation on ‘Crescent.’ He had an original take on all the influences in American music: blues, Afro-Hispanic and swing.”

Billie Holiday
Lady in Satin
Columbia (1958)
“It’s the time she sings in and her range — not the range of her voice, but the range of emotion and the command she has over the nuances. Like when something makes you sad for a moment and you forget what it is. … It’s difficult to articulate, and it only happens in music.”

*Thelonious Monk *
Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
Riverside/OJC (1955)
On this recording, Monk, who was 18 years younger than Ellington, was “having a dialogue with the past while Ellington was still alive. … You can see the similarities and differences between their styles. I love that arrangement of ‘Caravan.’ Everywhere you look on that record, it’s great improvised music.”

*Duke Ellington *
The New Orleans Suite
Atlantic (1970)
“Duke was 71, but you can just hear the liveliness in the pieces. He brings the organ in and really captures the mysteriousness of New Orleans. ‘Second Line,’ a movement of the suite, is one of the greatest big-band arrangements there is.”

*Charlie Parker *
One Night in Birdland
Columbia (1950)
This rare album captures “a lot of masters all in one room”: trumpeter Fats Navarro, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Curley Russell and Art Blakey on drums. “You see a lot of the greatest soloists challenging one another.”

by Jess McCuan
Source: The Wall Street Journal