Marsalis plays hall to perfection

TROY — Wynton Marsalis is no fool. He knows how good the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall sounds.

He barely noticed the microphone put up in front of him Wednesday night, instead opting to play from any position on the stage he chose, with the sound still carrying to every corner.

The trumpeter led his crack band to Troy for two sets of jazz that bopped, bounced and even shook hands with the old guard of the avant-garde.
In 2004, Marsalis returned to a small combo format for “The Magic Hour” and he drew on that disc at the hall, opening with the suite-like title track.
It allowed for an introduction of the band, with each member getting a chance to shine. And did pianist Dan Nimmer shine, like to burn the band.
Nimmer’s performance Wednesday was a revelation. It was easily some of the most exciting ivory work at the venue since younger brother Branford Marsalis put Joey Calderazzo on the boards in 1999.

In “Free To Be,” Nimmer took a scalar solo run that was cluttered with melody, symphonic unto itself. He began with close hands playing close harmonies, and then opened up the range to chew on both ends of the keyboard. In the second set opener, “Skipping,” he abandoned that approach for a wonderful hunt-and-peck attack that still swung like the devil.

Marsalis laughed off a few intonation problems early on and soloed with grace and strength. He was also in good humor and made jokes not only when he spoke, but when he played, too. He finished off “Free To Be,” for example, with an almost whispered curlicue on the horn, and he whistled his way through the end of a new tune, “Number Eight,” which featured special guest Yacub Addy — a Ghanaian master drummer living in Troy — on congas.
Marsalis also included a vocalist in his program. Jennifer Sanon, 20, sang four tunes, including a take of “All of Me” that was marked by muted New Orleans-style laughing trumpet from Marsalis.

In the night’s unexpected highlight, drummer Ali Jackson scratched the tip of his drumstick against his cymbal to create an eerie whine at the beginning of Ornette Coleman’s tone poem, “Sadness.”
Bassist Carlos Henriquez joined in with arco whir as saxophonist Walter Blanding echoed the ethereal high notes before Marsalis took over the line with his trumpet. Great stuff.

Blanding traded his tenor for a soprano horn during the first half of “Skipping” and provided a nice break behind Sanon during “Azalea.”
The entire cast returned for the single encore of the Ella Fitzgerald/Billie Holiday chestnut, “Comes Love.”

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, State and Second streets, Troy
Length: Two 50-minute sets
Musical highlights: With Ornette Coleman’s “Sadness,” Marsalis shook hands with the old guard of the avant-garde
The crowd: 1,000 jazz fans nearly sold out the hall

by Michael Eck
Source: Times Union

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