Marsalis, jazz band parlay brassy sound into gold
APPLETON – The individual and collective voices of a jazz band determine its greatness.
Collectively, the 15-member Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, playing Monday night at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, ran as though it is a machine driven by a single, powerful velvet piston. That’s what the great bands were about, everyone working for the collective good. But they were also about the individual voices – Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, Cootie Williams.
The LCJO, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, is packed with distinct voices, players who have something to say on their instruments. That begins with Marsalis, whose round, warm, buttery tone is so seductive. Or at the other end of the four-man trumpet section is 29-year-old Ryan Kisor, whose lithe, clipped-note solos are so different from those of his boss, but just as relevant and just as ear-catching. Where Kisor is quick and cerebral, Marsalis is in no hurry on the earthier path he follows.
Marsalis quickly lets everyone know this is not his show. He sits with the trumpet section, introduces the band and the numbers from there, takes his solos seated there.
Marsalis opened the night by saying the LCJO’s theme for the year is “Year of the Drum,” and so they paid homage to the late, great drumming bandleader Art Blakey, whose Jazz Messengers served as home to some of the great names of modern jazz – Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Benny Golson and even a young Wynton Marsalis.
The first set of five songs were all from the Jazz Messengers’ songbook, including “Moanin’,” the band’s 1958 hit written by funky pianist Bobby Timmons. Pianist Richard Johnson gave a gospel inflection to the blues tune during his solo. The set ended with Wayne Shorter’s “Free for All,” featuring Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson on alto sax. The instrument looked like a toy against Ander sound into gold son’s massive frame, and he seemed to easily coax from it a shimmering shower of notes. He was followed by Harmon-muted trumpeter Marcus Printup, who, instead of playing above the orchestra, snaked around the groove as though trying to squeeze through a crack in the music. It was an exciting, ear-grabbing solo.
The second set was just as pleasing, with tunes by Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Jelly Roll Morton, Hank Mobley, an original Spanish-tinged tune by reed player Ted Nash, and an encore from Marsalis’ 1999 big band suite “Big Train.” The low point of the night was when the audience tried to clap along to the band stomping out the rhythm of a train on the encore tune. The audience wanted so badly to participate, but it couldn’t get the rhythm right. (It never can.) Drummer Herlin Riley finally had to ask the audience to stop clapping along.
Thank you, Herlin.
by Jim Lundstrom
Source: The Post-Crescent