Wynton Marsalis at Kennedy Center Concert Hall

When Wynton Marsalis disbanded his marvelous septet last fall, the jazz trumpeter said he needed more time for composing, teaching and producing. He didn’t say he was going to stop performing live altogether, however, and Wednesday he brought a new group to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. His current format — a quartet vamping on standards — is much less demanding for the bandleader than a septet playing meticulous arrangements of originals. It’s also less ambitious music, but Marsalis and his band mates played with high musical standards and low-key, ingratiating warmth.

Marsalis called the show “a piano summit,” for he shuffled three different musicians through the piano bench. Eric Reed, the lone holdover from the septet and the quartet’s regular pianist, was joined by two guests. Loston Harris II, a recent Howard University student, made his first appearance with the Marsalis Quartet and overcame some initial nervousness to play several brisk, adventurous solos. Marcus Roberts, a Marsalis alumnus and now a bandleader in his own right, demonstrated his rare gift for operating left and right hands independently. Yet the most impressive piano solos were turned in by Reed, who has absorbed Thelonious Monk’s vocabulary of pauses, diminished chords and offbeat accents as well as anyone in his generation.

Bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Ali Jackson, both of whom have played in Roberts’s band, completed the lineup. The quartet tackled familiar standards by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Monk.

Dapper as ever in a light gray suit, Marsalis was in a jovial mood, even telling self-deprecating stories about his early, embarrassing encounters with Dizzy Gillespie. The trumpeter then played a spectacular version of Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” beginning with quiet, understated passages and building to a piercing, virtuosic climax.

by Geoffrey Himes
Source: The Washington Post

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