At 22, Marsalis Gives Jazz Much-Needed Boost

Not since the emergence of the young Clifford Brown has the jazz trumpet commanded the renewed interest which currently swirls about 22-year-old Wynton Marsalis, who is equally at home in the classical and jazz milieu. Proclaiming himself a “jazz musician who can play classical music,” Marsalis has made two solo jazz albums for Columbia, his most recent release a serious contender on the Billboard jazz charts. He also made his classical recording debut on CBS as an interpreter of Haydn, Hummel and L. Mozart. He could be the much-needed transfusion which jazz has sought for many years since rock first cast its pall over America’s only native art form.

Trumpeter Marsalis and his quintet delivered two hours of hard bop Saturday night at Berklee Performance Center before a near- capacity turnout. While his performance won’t consign Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard to the status of anachronisms, Marsalis will surely be acknowledged as the worthy extension of these great trumpeters. The fact that Wynton Marsalis is an uncompromising jazz musician, who treats improvisation as his musical modus vivendi, entitles him to serious credibility. His music, although complex in its conception, with its sudden tempo shifts and tight ensemble playing, is executed with seeming ease. When Wynton Marsalis blows in the middle register, he affects the thick, umbrous tone of a flugelhorn. Without showboating, he can suddenly slip into an upper range, his phrasing crisp and bright, as he lifts his bell away from the microphone. He is a master of subtlety, choosing more often to conclude a rendition with a half- valved squeak than a bravura blast. He unfurls his solos in ribbons of notes or an ingratiating terseness. Duetting with his brother saxophonist Branford Marsalis, himself an exceedinlgy expressive soloist, they perform engrossing call-and-response dialogues.

“Knozz-Moe-king” launched the concert with an adrenalized session, featuring Wynton Marsalis looping curling lines alternated with double-time and staccato bursts. Frank Loesser might not have recognized the mutation of his “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” with its extremely broad variation on the melody and the trumpeter’s blasts and whispers and Kenny Kirkland’s dynamic piano solo. The same tantalizing treatment was given the standard, “My Ideal” in which the trumpeter, Branford Marsalis and the rhythm section soared in personal flights of fancy. Kirkland, whose solos unleashed deluges of single- noted showers and chunks of upper octaves, voiced with raw power on the stop-and-go “Hesitation,” based upon the liberal variations on the chord changes to “I Got Rhythm.” The bluesy “Later,” used as the quintet’s signature, was the most accessible of a comparatively complex batch of songs. The sole concession to the avant-garde was the group’s performance of Ornette Coleman’s “Chronology,” highlighting, in addition to Wynton Marsalis’ controlled fury, a steaming bass solo by 16-year-old Charnett Moffett and the double-time drumming of Jeff Watts.

by Ernie Santosuosso
Source: Boston Globe

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