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Academic Freedom. Marsalis Plays Monk: Standard Time Volume 4 is the fourth in Wynton Marsalis's Standard Time series and the first in a series of eight total CDs comprising the Swinging into the 21st Century series. Regardless of anything said about Wynton Marsalis, he is a dedicated educator and purveyor of jazz music. Many critics have accused Marsalis as having only head and no heart in his music. This is all beside the point.
The recent Philips series on great classical pianists of the 20th century highlights the essential difference between ethos and pathos and why both are important. Compare the straight intellectualism of Sviatoslav Richter with the romantic exuberance of Vladimir Horowitz. Both Russians are considered the best that the 20th has to offer: music benefiting from different approaches. Marsalis represents the Richter approach with a broader intention. Marsalis' tone while personal, is affected by so many sources as to prevent him from being completely personal. But this makes no difference. Marsalis Plays Monk is a pleasure from start to finish.
All Standards, No Standards. This disc does not contain "'Round Midnight," "Straight, No Chaser," "Blue Monk," "Friday the 13th," "Crepuscule for Nellie, "or "Walked Bud." It does contain, "Thelonious," "Evidence," "We See," "Monk's Mood," and "Brilliant Corners.." What I term the second shelf of Monk compositions (unfair because of the high quality of all of Monks compositions). Marsalis makes use of a septet made up of past small combo and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra members. He takes full advantage of the fine clarinet playing of Victor Goines
. His over the top playing on Joe Temperley's Double Duke (Naxos Jazz, 1998) is a performance pinnacle. Add the direct influence of Marsalis and Gordon is used and performs to 110% of his enormous ability. This phenomenon is likewise with the other band members. Anderson benefits from the disciplined direction of Marsalis. Compare his contributions to this disc (particularly "Hackensack") to his recent live album, Wessell "Warmdaddy" Anderson Live at the Village Vanguard (Leaning House, 1998). Leading his own band at the Vanguard, Anderson plays with a harsher tone on standards with a less clear goal than on this Marsalis disc. Again, Marsalis encourages the best playing from his musicians.
Endgame. This is a very good disc. Marsalis has a special reverence for the leaders in jazz: Louis Armstrong