Another great Lied Center performance from Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest — if not the greatest — trumpeters, which he repeatedly demonstrated with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Sunday afternoon at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

But the 90-minute concert demonstrated that Marsalis, who while billed along with the orchestra, insists on being a member of the 15-member ensemble that is filled with jazz masters, each who got a turn or two in the spotlight for solos that displayed their improvisational skill and top-level musicianship.

In the case of McCoy Tyner’s “Man from Tanganyika,” which opened the second set, it first showcased trombonist Chris Crenshaw, the song’s arranger. Crenshaw came out carrying a tuba — “it’s a friendly instrument,” Marsalis quipped — to set the basis for the modal jazz piece that featured a handful of impressive solos, including a lyrical flight by Sherman Irby on flute and a captivating exploration of rhythm and tone from drummer Obed Calvaire.

program when he saw that there would be a number of kids in the audience, and he wanted them to have something to remember.

But the orchestra always takes a trip through the history of jazz, on Sunday reaching back to 1929 for Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche,” which found Marsalis using a mute to make his trumpet “talk” in a period perfect rendition of the clarinet-drenched number.

Ellington returned with the third movement from his 1959 “Queen’s Suite” that showed, in Marsalis’s words, “the sound of five saxophones and how beautiful they sound together.”

Those steps through history — the program included songs from the ’50s through the ’90s — bore out something the engaging Marsalis, who talked on hand-held microphone from the back row of the bandstand, said during the show:

“One interesting things about jazz is we don’t have a generation gap,” Marsalis said. “We don’t association being old with unhip. Those guys we played with from (Duke Ellington’s) orchestra were some of the hippest cats ever.”

That remark was followed by a tribute to one of JLCO’s hippest, the late baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, who, Marsalis said, “came to the U.S. (from Scotland) running from the Beatles.” That tribute featured the soulful, smoky baritone of Temperley’s replacement Paul Nedzela, both on the melody line and a lovely solo.

The program also included a pair of Marsalis compositions: the title cut form his 1985 Grammy-winning album “Black Codes (From the Underground)” and “Awakening,” a piece from a ballet he helped create with a Chinese choreographer, which opened with flutes and clarinets creating a Chinese-sounding passage.

The concert, which one attendee described to me as a spiritual experience, ended with trombonist Vincent Gardner’s “Up From Down,” on which, in case it wasn’t already obvious, Marsalis showed why he’s the world’s best, with a mind boggling, technically ultra proficient solo. That was matched by Irby on alto sax before the orchestra blasted the final notes of another of its great Lied performances.

by L. Kent Wolgamott
Source: The Lincoln Journal Star

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