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The First Family of Modern Jazz performed on August 4, 2001 at a concert hall in The Crescent City to mark the retirement of Ellis Marsalis from teaching duties at the University of New Orleans. Fortunately, the event was captured on tape.
As with most live performances, this celebration includes a fair amount of spontaneity along with tight ensemble partnerships. Branford’s “Cain and Abel” places his fluid tenor side by side with Wynton’s sparkling trumpet in a traditional New Orleans stomp. With bass and drums, the two eldest brothers parade their camaraderie. Nobody does it better. In the same manner that two experienced basketball guards can easily outmaneuver their opponents through poise and grace, Branford and Wynton win their audience through cool passion. It all comes quite naturally.
Several of Ellis’ original compositions afford the ensemble a chance to dig in and burn up the scenery. Modern mainstream drama settles in deftly, as each family member contributes equally. Branford’s vigorous solo on “Nostalgic Impressions” stretches the envelope with high-powered energy.
Everyone solos on this winning concert. It’s still early in the year, and A Jazz Celebration sits alone on this year’s ten best list. Audio samples for each track are available at www.marsalismusic.com.
Track Listing: Swinging at the Haven; The Surrey With the Fringe on Top; Cain and Abel;
Nostalgic Impressions; After; Sultry Serenade; Twelve
Personnel: Ellis Marsalis- piano; Branford Marsalis- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone;
Delfeayo Marsalis- trombone; Jason Marsalis- drums; Wynton Marsalis- trumpet;
Roland Guerin- bass; Harry Connick, Jr.- piano on