Shows Why He’s Up For Grammys

Wynton Marsalis, the only musician to be nominated for awards in the areas of both jazz and classical in the history of the Grammys, proved to a standing-room-only crowd at the Sheldon Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, evening that his jazz nominations were richly deserved.
Marsalis, appearing with his quintet, played two sets of acoustic jazz that reminded this reviewer of the music produced by the classic Miles Davis groups of the late ’50s and early ’60s. Given Marsalis’ background, this isn’t as surprising as it might sound. Even though he is only 22, Marsalis already has toured with such jazz greats as Art Blakey and Herble Hancock.

Marsalis’ quintet consists of Wynton on trumpet; bis brother, Branford, on tenor and alto sax; Kenny Kirkland on piano; Charnette Moffet on bass; and Jeff Watts on drums.
They led off the concert with a rendition of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” that allowed plenty of room for improvisation on solos by both the Marsalis brothers and Kirkland. Wynton turned the well-known melody Inside out, beginning with slow phraslngs on muted trumpet and building his solo to a climax with long lines of notes taken at breakneck speed.

This opening trumpet solo set the tone for the rest of the concert. The emphasis was on the logical development of the solo rather than empty virtuosity. The rest of the quintet followed the same pattern in their solo turns, stretching out musically but never losing control. Branford Marsalis’ alto solo on “The Bell Ringer” and tenor sax solo on “Smile” illustrated that Wynton has no monopoly on talent In the family.
He seemed equally at home on both instruments, spinning out fresh musical ideas effortlessly.

Pianist Kirkland also excelled in his moments in the spotlight His solo on the Thelonlous Monk composition “Think of One” drove the song to a rhythmic Intensity that was electrifying. Watts laid a solid groundwork of percussion that held the brass and keyboard solos firmly In place. Watts handled both driving polyrhythms and soft brush work with dexterity.

Moffett provided the most unexpected musical surprise of the evening. Moffett joined the quintet at the beginning of this year, but the youthful bassist sounds as if he’s been playing with the band for years. He seemed to be soloing almost continuously, attacking his instrument with an energy that was unrelenting. The jazz world definitely will hear a great deal more from this musician.

The Wynton Marsalis quintet provided St Louis jazz fans with an evening of excellent music that will be long remembered by those lucky enough to be In attendance. If you were unable to attend and would like to get a taste of what you missed, tune In the Grammy awards show Tuesday night on television. Marsalis will perform jazz and classical compositions back to back. It seems likely that you’ll also see him accepting at least one well-deserved Grammy award for his outstanding talents.

By Terry Perkins
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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