The undeniable fact about trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, whether you're a fan or critic, is that he plays as if every note is his lastwith purpose, verve, and total commitment. This consummate energy is documented on this new live release which was recorded in December 2002 at the House of Tribes on New York's Lower East Side. The elements for the recording were just right with a seasoned band, swinging music, and an enthusiastic crowd of jazz fans.
The appropriately titled recording is truly "amongst the people": the microphones sound as if they were positioned directly within the crowd. The cheers, applause, and encouraging banter of the fans in response to the Marsalis quintet were intricately captured, and as you listen, you feel as if you're right there.
Wynton Marsalis has gone down this road before with live recordings like Live at Blues Alley and Live At The Village Vanguard. Besides the roles he plays as composer and educator, the Pulitzer Prize winner is a working musician and bandleader. This is quite evident on this new release as the band covers eight standards with great showmanship.
Things start cooking with Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys as the music swings and the rhythm snaps, Marsalis leading off with a playful, intense, and free solo. His trumpet is pure joy, filled with teasing trills and all-out brass bravado. The band adds even more abstract and blues-filled soloing behind the wonderful rhythm, ending with some strutting by everyone joining in the fun.
Jazz is more about feeling than perfection, which is evident on the classic "You Don't Know What Love Is as Marsalis' trumpet oozes sadness; he's followed by a warm and lush alto saxophone solo by Wessell Anderson. The aura of the tune gives an essence of timelessness which carries over into the burning Charlie Parker standard "Donna Lee. There are no new revelations on this recording, and it would have been interesting to hear some new material from Marsalis. But what it does show is the impeccable talent he and the band possessas well as the insight to keep the fires burning as they take the fans from New York to New Orleans on the street party closing tune "2nd Line.
The crowd is an additional factor that makes this recording fun, as on "Just Friends. When bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Joe Farnsworth take ample solo spots, they are spurred on by the rowdy crowd. At one point a fan shouts, "You all act like you all got soul over there, and another eagerly responds, "It's all in how you stroke it. The recording has the sound of what jazz music was and should be about: getting people involved.
Personnel: Wessell Anderson: alto sax; Joe Farnsworth: drums; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Wynton
Marsalis: trumpet; Orlando Rodriguez: percussion.