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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at the Mesa Arts Center

Patricia Myers By

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America’s jazz is our past and our potential, and connects to our earliest selves and our better selves.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Mesa Arts Center
Mesa, Arizona
September 25, 2015

A sophisticated and engaging performance by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis with Wynton Marsalis was a meld of the trumpeter-leader's ongoing homage to jazz history plus the spark of original compositions from his current colleagues.

Dizzy Gillespie's "Things to Come" from 1946 was the opening chart, Marsalis delivering an extended solo at super-speed that exhibited his graceful power and absolute command of the instrument. Duke Ellington's 1940 instrumental hit, "Concerto for Cootie," showcased the spectacular chops of trumpeter Ryan Kisor, especially on the closing shout chorus, as the ensemble earnestly delivered Ellington's writing style of that era.

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Contemplation" featured tenor titan Walter Blanding in the composer's role. Then it was Dizzy's fiery "Fiesta Mojo" to showcase the brilliance of trumpeter Marcus Printup and Ted Nash's lithe flute, underscored by drummer Ali Jackson employing cymbals brush-work in a Latin swing mode.

Trombonist Chris Crenshaw's "Bearden" (inspired by the paintings of Romare Bearden) was a slower-paced chart that featured unison trumpet-section elements, sax quintet segments and a dreamy solo by the tenor man Victor Goines, with pianist Dan Nimmer injecting stride movements. Bassist Carlos Henriquez was featured on his original, "Guara Jazz," followed by "Mood Indigo" played in1930s Ellington style with a trio of clarinet, muted trumpet and trombone embodying the sleekly pensive blues form.

Marsalis next chose the post-modern "Portrait in Seven Shades" by pianist Chick Corea, noting that Corea's recent weeklong with the orchestra included a performance at the Hollywood Bowl. "Straight Up and Down" was the final selection, featuring trumpeter Kisor and trombonist Vincent Gardner up front to alternate hot solos and duo exchanges.

As usual, Marsalis sat within the trumpet section, even during his opening remarks that "America's jazz is our past and our potential, and connects to our earliest selves and our better selves." The concert was a benefit for the 10-year-old Mesa Arts Center's outreach programs. Among those is this sixth year of the "Jazz A to AZ" project, which brought Marsalis for a four-day residency of clinics in local schools, a free public talk and a concert with Phoenix Symphony musicians. As expected, JLCO was impeccably dressed, in taupe Brooks Brothers suits with muted solid-color ties, the shades differing for each section. In sound and sight, it was class all the way, Wynton's way to honor this treasured musical genre.

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