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: 1. Swingin' at the Haven 2. The Surrey With the Fringe on Top
3. Wynton Speaks 4. Cain and Abel 5. Nostalgic Impressions
6. After 7. Sultry Serenade 8. Twelve's It 9. Harry Speaks
10. Saint James Infirmary 11. Struttin' With Some Barbecue
Personnel: Ellis Marsalis - Piano; Branford Marsalis - Saxophone;
Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet; Delfeayo Marsalis - Trombone;
Jason Marsalis - Drums; Roland Guerin - Bass;
Harry Connick Jr. - Piano; Lucien Barbarin - Trombone;
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.