Delfeayo Marsalis Live at The Blue Note

Ernest Barteldes BY

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Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet
The Blue Note
New York City, New York
January 4, 2007

Tony Bennett quotes Duke Ellington telling him to "sing sweet and put a little dirt in," and that is the best way to describe Delfeayo (pronounced Del- FEE -yo) Marsalis' Quintet set at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club on January 4, which was part of his week-long residence there.

class=MsoNormal>The quintet, which featured Anthony Wansi (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), Dave Liebman (saxophone) and Jason Marsalis (drums), opened the set with "Brer Rabbit," a tune from Delfeayo's  latest album,  Minions' Dominion. Liebman handled the first solo on tenor, giving it his own imprint (the original featured Donald Harrison). While the studio recording had that New Orleans "feel" to it, in Liebman's hands the tune picked up considerable New York grit.   Marsalis then showed why he is considered one of the premier trombonists of his generation, and 29-year-old Jason Marsalis (the junior member of the famous  jazz family) was in command at the drums—not necessarily displaying great mastery in his style, but playing with enough security and chops to hold his own behind the kit.

class=MsoNormal>"Lone Warrior" was dedicated to the late Elvin Jones (who performed on Marsalis' album). Liebman began playing with a Native American flute, switching to soprano sax, and then Marsalis took over.  It was instructive to notice how attentive both Liebman and Marsalis were when not playing, listening closely to each instrument, absorbing everything that was around them.

class=MsoNormal>Fellow Crescent City pianist/singer Davell Crawford was invited to join in for the third song, a personal rendition of Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love?". Crawford began with a classically inspired intro, and then channelled Chet Baker as he began to sing. The band joined him on a bossa groove, with Liebman contributing a solo in the best Stan Getz style as Crawford stroked the keys with a soft Afro-Cuban groove. As the song came to an end, Marsalis and Crawford improvised a piano-trombone duo that brought smiles to everyone in the audience.

class=MsoNormal>The best of the evening was left to the end as Crawford was invited back to the stage to resurrect the full New Orleans sound and spirit for "The Big Chief." One almost expected the audience to get up and dance like a regular Mardi Gras crowd. As Marsalis growled through the tune, the audience was surprised as yet another Big Easy native, Dirty Ray, came down the stairs with a tambourine and washboard vest, making everyone forget, for the moment, that they were in Manhattan. It was during this moment that we saw Jason Marsalis in his element, playing NOLA street beats, holding a steady beat on the bass drum while taking full advantage of the tom-toms and the snare.

class=MsoNormal>The quintet (now a sextet, if you count Dirty Ray) closed with Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," which gave everyone an opportunity to show of their individual chops.

class=MsoNormal>"This is Crescent City music, there's always something unexpected," Marsalis told me backstage at the end of the show. The trombonist is as charming as he is talented, and he wholeheartedly shook hands with fans and well-wishers at the end of what was a memorable night of jazz.

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