Marsalis’ horn chases bad luck
NEW BRUNSWICK – The adage “The show must go on” was sorely tested by technical difficulties at the first of two shows given by Wynton Marsalis Friday night at Rutgers University.
Drummer Jeffrey Watts was locked out of the apartment that held his drums,, causing a 1 ½-hours delay in the start of the show. When Marsalis tried to apologize to the crowd for the late start, he mistakenly used the trumpet microphone, rendering his speech inaudible to all but the first few rows of concert-goers. Finally, Marsalis’ own horn betrayed him, as a stuck valve hampered his efforts throughout the final song of the regular program.
Despite the gremlins, the 23-year-old trumpeter managed to display a healthy measure of the talent that scored an unprecedented double at last year’s Grammy Awards for jazz and classical performances. He led his quintet through an all-jazz program that included several cuts from his latest album, “Hot House Flowers.” The crowd that turned out on the bitingly cold evening reflected the broad range of Marsalis’ demographic appeal, with white-haired elders, cosmopolitan couples and young collegiate-types represented equally in the Student Center’s Rose Room.
Although audience reaction was mostly reserved, the resounding applause at the end of the regular program quickly coaxed the quintet out for a short encore. Dressed impeccably in an expensive gray suit and blue tie, Marsalis opened the show with the standard, “What is This Thing Called Love.” showing a broad, strong tone even in the lowest range of his trumpet. Delivering be-bop-styled solos in the elegantly cool manner for which he’s known, Marsalis’ vaunted technical mastery was much in evidence during the evening, and several dazzling runs drew scattered bursts of applause from the appreciative crowd.
The absolute breath control of the young master and his lack of gimmicky squeaking and squawking also confirmed that his dedication to classic jazz ( style extends beyond his constant degrading of electronic funk in the media. Marsalis was well-supported by his rhythm section of Watts, pianist Kenny Kirkland and bassist Charnette Moffett. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis seemed more disturbed by the evening’s events than his younger brother, often stalking to the back of the stage following his tenor and soprano sax solos. He sported a dour look throughout, barely granting the crowd a disgruntled nod for their applause.
Despite the difficulty with his trumpet valve, Wynton Marsalis closed the regular show in fine fashion with “Never Been in Love Before” and “Later,” a quick-jump tune that proved a perfect vehicle for his quick 16th-note runs. With three Grammy nominations for “Hot House Flowers” to be voted on within the month and another jazz album of originals due shortly, it looks like the gremlins will have to work a little harder to sidetrack Marsalis from his successful path.
By Bruce Haring