Jason Marsalis Quartet at SOUTH

Steve Bryant By

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Jason Marsalis Quartet
Philadelphia, PA
October 5, 2015

It is difficult under normal circumstances for the youngest sibling in a family. When that family is named Marsalis then the dynamic changes and there exists a whole slew of standards and expectations. That is the environment that Jason Marsalis has had to deal with over the course of his life. Of course it doesn't help that his older brothers, trumpeter Wynton and tenor saxophonist Branford have wielded arguably the most significant influence on the evolution of modern jazz over the last 30 years. In the meantime the younger Marsalis, who initially took up the drums, worked with Bill Summers and Los Hombres Calientes while taking up the vibes and honing his skills on that instrument.

Marsalis brought a quartet of very able players to Philadelphia's SOUTH restaurant, which is a very appropriate venue as they offer a neo-Creole cuisine there. To much anticipation from the crowd, Marsalis began the set with a swinging blues titled "In A World of Mallets." During the course of his soloing, Marsalis displayed touches of both Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson. The second tune "Ballet Class," had that Modern Jazz Quartet vibe as it was based on the romantic compositions of Maurice Ravel.

Marsalis and Company then swung out on that old chestnut "Three Little Words" in which his bandmates, pianist Austin Johnson, bassist Will Goble, and drummer David Potter had the opportunity to showcase their jazz skills. Johnson and Potter showed their compatible sides when they engaged in some "4's" activity. The band did a stylistic changeup as they engaged in some bomba on "Impressed" an upbeat tune penned by the drummer David Potter which was inspired by the work of David Sanchez and Miguel Zenon. Marsalis drew on his days with Hombres Calientes while channeling Cal Tjader, and bassist Goble threw down a funky tumbao.

Marsalis later threw in some Thelonius Monk (perhaps due to his impending birthday) with "Play It Twice," which featured some nice change-ups on the tempo and some tasty keyboards by Johnson. Marsalis did a penultimate set number which was a very original piece based on the harmonic changes of "Maniac," which was from the film Flashdance. Marsalis got to stretch out on this tune, and showed that while he looked to Hutcherson and Jackson for stylistic inspiration, he is intent on developing his own artistic identity, both as a vibraphonist and a Marsalis.

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