Wynton Marsalis/Sachal Jazz Ensemble review – lively east-west fling

Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra joined Pakistan’s legendary movie-soundtrack band, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble, for a lively east-west fling in the closing stages of the trumpeter’s UK tour. The Pakistanis’ and the Americans’ notions of groove were audibly different since, as the man himself drily put it, “these guys count music to 60 or 70 or 80, and we don’t often count past 12.” But while there were some moments that sounded like a radio tuned into two stations at once, the show was a meeting of hearts, ingenuity and musicality, united by the profound faith of improvisation.

The Sachals’ compositions operated within Lincoln Center arrangements, the whole collaboration being steered by conductor Nijat Ali. Tere Ishq Nachaya by Wazir Afzal was an airy tablas-and-flute meditation before saxes and trumpets barged cheerfully in, but the jazz riffs were soon cruising over the chatter of the three Sachal hand drummers. Lou Donaldson’s slinky Blues Walk had alto saxist Sherman Irby swapping blues phrases with the note bends of flute virtuoso Baqir Abbas against the Lincoln Center’s Ellingtonian ensemble sound.

Dave Brubeck’s Take Five featured sitarist Nafees Khan, emotionally recasting the late Paul Desmond’s original sax melody with Dan Nimmer playing the iconic piano hook John Coltrane’s version of My Favourite Things brought some of the most soulfully dramatic music of the night, with the Pakistanis playing a blur of polyrhythms under the rocking riff and a shrill and impassioned soprano sax solo from Walter Blanding. Marsalis’s sure-footed and glowing trumpet break on Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans Blues was a typically elegant pleasure, while Nijat Ali’s groove-juggling Rhythmesque (arranged by Carlos Henriquez – “he’s from the Bronx school of 11/8”) made a punchy finale for one of the best collaborations in Marsalis’s recent world-jazz phase.

by John Fordham
Source: The Guardian

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