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The most exhilarating live date by Marsalis since his mammoth seven-CD release Live at the Village Vanguard in 1999, Live at the House of Tribes is a brilliant blowing session captured in 2002 at a tiny club in New York's Lower East Side that he frequents with a small group every winter.
The audience of just fifty or so is heard right through, co-signing the instrumental declarations and exclamations of the leader, his long-time partner in swing, alto saxophonist Wess "Warmdaddy Anderson, and a hard-driving rhythm section brought together for this performance of jazz standards from the repertoire of bebop and the American songbook. Thelonious Monk's dissonant "Green Chimneys sets the stage for the drama to come. Marsalis first covered this composition on his 1999 release, Marsalis Plays Monk, but it was recorded in 1994. Comparing Marsalis' performance then and in 2002 is a study in the maturation of a great artist.
"Just Friends is taken mid-tempo, with Marsalis' patient solo further revealing the expansion of his conception. Joe Farnsworth, well-known to regulars at the uptown club Smoke, plays brushes here with cool, intense finesse while Kengo Nakamura thumps pizzicato bass lines that would have made the late Niels Henning Ørsted-Pedersen proud.
The six-tune date ends with a trip to New Orleans via "2nd Line, the effervescent joy apparent in the festive mood, especially via the tambourine playing of Robert Rucker. The band's insouciance that cold December night in 2002 seems an implicit counter-statement to the recent tragic events caused by Hurricane Katrina and government neglect. Tragedy is an undoubted part of human existence, but we've gotta swing anyway, for as many bars as we've got.
Track Listing: Green Chimneys; Just Friends; You Don't Know What Love Is; Donna Lee; What Is This
Thing Called Love; 2nd Line.
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis: trumpet;
Wessell "Warmdaddy" Anderson: alto saxophone;
Eric Lewis: piano;
Kengo Nakamura: bass;
Joe Farnsworth: drums;
Robert Rucker: tambourine;
Orlando Q. Rodriguez: percussion.