Marsalis charms Opera House crowd

WILMINGTON – Make no mistake, Wynton Marsalis is a serious musician but has a well-developed sense of humor. His sextet edified a full, very respectful house Monday night in the Grand Opera House.

The 30-year-old trumpeter was again selected jazz performer of the year in DownBeat magazine’s yearly poll and the audience fully appreciated his prestige. The program relied heavily on standards from artists such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. It featured several tributes to the late Wilmington trumpeter, Clifford Brown and a sophisticated mix of blues.

Marsalis has clearly defined what he sees as the tradition of jazz. Much of the program supported that approach. The combo offered an intricate series of carefully intertwined arabesques in Ellington’s “Caravan.”

Opening with “Embraceable You” by George Gershwin, the sextet featured Marsalis’ breathy, haunting solos. Stylish and articulate, the trumpeter set a quiet, seductive mood for the piece. Always generous with his sidemen, Marsalis gave all five ample room in the spotlight. Pianist Stephen Scott added a genteel interlude and sustained elegant support.

Charlie Parker’s “Chasing the Bird” showed alto sax player Wess Anderson and Herb Harris on soprano sax in some exciting solo riffs and in tight unison with Marsalis. The trio of Scott, bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley displayed superb interaction all evening.
Marsalis has been delving into the blues in his latest albums. His playing on “All Blues” by Miles Davis showcased the range and depth of that form. Playing with a mute, Marsalis went off on deep, plaintive quests for the loneliness of the music. Harris, doubling on tenor sax, emphasized the earthier aspects of the idiom while Anderson added a saucy but wise insight on the alto.

Some of the trumpeter’s comic sense appeared after intermission, when he explained he would have to perform on a stool or risk collapsing from hyperventilation. He stressed this was only the second time he had had to do this. He joked that it made him feel like he was performing with a symphony. Since he twice managed to win Grammy awards for best classical recording and best jazz recording in the same year, Marsalis is entitled to the comment. He then launched into a set of soaring bravura solos in “Cherokee,” a song he dedicated to Brown.

by Tom Butler
Source: The News Journal Wilmington

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