Wynton Marsalis: He and She (2009)
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He and She is a full-bodied meditation on love and the complexities of the human heart. The CD is a rich offering of 12 Wynton Marsalis compositions as well as a long poem by Marsalis, interspersed between tracks and then read in its entirety at the end. Marsalis culminated 2007's From the Plantation to the Penitentiary (Blue Note) with a poem, and He and She finds him further exploring the marriage between jazz and poetry.
It can be hard to balance music and spoken word, but Marsalis does an admirable job: the disparate segments flow easily into one another, without either overwhelming the other. It helps that "He and She" is a good poem, combining interesting cadences with a wealth of emotions. This richness is reflected in the music, which moves through many moods and jazz styles. Marsalis is joined by first-rate sidemenWalter Blanding (tenor and soprano sax), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drums)who are more than capable of bringing his vision to fruition.
The highlights include "The Razor Rim," a 12-minute song featuring tight frontline work between Marsalis and Blanding as well as some nice solo work, including easy, flowing lines by Marsalis and intricate, passionate weaving by Blanding. The short, powerful "Zero" delves into the sadness of losing love; "Fears" is a compelling mood piece with great bass work; and "School Boy" is a ragtime-infused tune that features Marsalis' trademark crispness and precision.
He and She is a happy example of the convergence of jazz and spoken word. It will be interesting to see where Marsalis takes this art form in the future.
Track Listing: Poem; School Boy; Poem; The Sun and The Moon; Poem; Sassy; Poem; Fears; Poem; The Razor Rim; Poem; Zero; Poem; First Crush; First Slow Dance; First Kiss; First Time; Poem; Girls!; Poem; A Train, A Banjo, and A Chicken Wing; He and She.
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis: trumpet; Walter Blanding: tenor and soprano saxophones; Dan Nimmer: piano; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Ali Jackson: drums.
Record Label: Blue Note Records