Marsalis captures a little of the ‘Magic’
Wynton Marsalis has been coming to Symphony Hall for 20 years, he told his audience there early on last night, and “it’s always a pleasure.”
This time he arrived looking the elder statesman at 42, and touring with his quartet in support of their new Blue Note CD, “The Magic Hour,” an album more fun and accessible than those immediately preceding it. That being so, the question was whether the new music would help breathe a little extra fun and passion into Marsalis’s unmatchable technique.
The answer was yes and no. The group started out with the tune “Free to Be,” which had Marsalis bending at the knees during his solo but didn’t coax much fire from him otherwise. Pianist Eric Lewis played some brilliant chord work during his solo, and actually drew a bigger ovation from the crowd than his boss did.
“Baby, I Love You” came next, and it didnt suffer from the lack of Bobby McFerrin being on hand to sing the song’s forgettable lyrics. Marsalis launched the tune with some muted trumpet with a strong New Orleans feel to it, Lewis followed with a smart, leisurely solo, and then Marsalis played an unmuted solo that began to take off a bit when the audience began clapping along to the rhythm.
“You and Me” followed, but didn’t go anywhere. It started with Marsalis and drummer Ali Jackson clapping out a rhythm with their hands while bassist Carlos Henriquez bowed along. The tune was pleasant enough but uninspired. Trombonist Andre Hayward was brought out to join the quartet on “Big Fat Hen” and the three numbers to follow. Marsalis played his trumpet like a chicken clucking, then stood back and shook his head appreciatively during Hayward’s solo.
“Skipping,” from the new CD, was first up after intermission. But the band had more fun with the Monk tune to follow, “Oska T,” with Marsalis taking a lovely muted solo that may have been his best of the night. Lewis got into some heavy chords again on his solo, finishing off with an allusion to Gershwin. The CD’s title tune concluded the show proper.
A fair chunk of the crowd continued filing out of the seating area after the quartet came back onstage and began to encore on “Embraceable You.” A mistake: Not even Marsalis’s detractors can deny he excels on ballads. He’s been slaying audiences with those for well over 20 years.
By Bill Beuttler
Source: Boston Globe