Marsalis dazzles Viterbo Crowd

The jazz man in the golden suit with the golden horn brought a glorious end Sunday night to Viterbo College’s 1994-95 Bright Star Season. Nothing could be finer than Wynton Marsalis and his sweet golden sound as he serenaded a sellout crowd of 1,100 at Viterbo’s Fine Arts Center Main Theater.

The theater exploded with applause and a standing ovation as the crowd begged for an encore. Marsalis and his quintet were happy to oblige. The performance was not exactly a concert; it was more like a jam session as everyone in the band got their chance to shine and stretch a melody to the outer limits. But it was cool Marsalis who charmed the audience with his grace, poetry and smoothness. Marsalis showed his soft, warm style in George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” keeping the tune to himself and capturing the mood in its elegance. It was a concert made to order standards of Duke Ellington, Gershwin and Thelonious Monk.

The quintet opened with Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” as both Marsalis and Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson on alto saxophone displayed innovative and impressive improvisation. Marsalis told the crowd that he had to open with Ellington “just because it’s fun.” The opening piece was equally matched in Ellington’s “Caravan” when the quintet showed its versatility and Marsalis came through with power and finesse. The quintet also performed Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” and fantastic chord changes from Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm,” even though the melody was gone. “Warmdaddy” Anderson is a wonderful, experienced jazz player with beautiful tone and range. The rest of the crew Loston Harris on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Ali Muhammad-Jackson Jr. on drums are young and inexperienced but talented and full of enthusiasm.

There’s no doubt the trio is under the close watch of Marsalis, who was nurtured by some jazz greats. Marsalis had fun with the audience as he encouraged any emotion including shouting from the audience. He and his band were 20 minutes late, but it didn’t matter much. Marsalis told the crowd that it was his fault because he had been up for the last three or four days trying to make a deadline on a composition.

“You know how it feels to have a term paper due,” he said. When the quintet struck up the first note, most in the audience were just glad he was there. The concert was sold out for three months, but some ticket holders didn’t show, leaving empty seats. But if you wanted to go to this concert and couldn’t get a ticket, don’t worry, be happy! Marsalis will be back in La Crosse to open the 1995-96 Bright Star Season. He will come to Viterbo with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on Sept. 28 to play big band music.

by Terry Rindfleisch
Source: The La Crosse Tribune

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