This album was recorded in 2019 but its message of unabashed joy is welcome these days for obvious reasons. The people responsible for it are Delfeayo Marsalis and Uptown Jazz Orchestra. The music is steeped in the various musical traditions of Marsalis' native New Orleans but brings in a few outside influences to enhance the fun.
All sorts of Big Easy sounds are touched on here. "Blackbird Special," a tune originally by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, intensifies that group's infectiously jubilant sound through the power of a full brass-heavy orchestra, with its composer, former Dirty Dozen member Roger Lewis, featured on buzzsaw baritone sax. "7th Ward Boogaloo" is a slinky rumba with Marsalis' sinuous trombone and Roderick Paulin's romantic tenor sax up front. "So New Orleans" has Dr. Brice MIller rapping about the city's culture over a big stomping groove and "Let Your Mind Be Free" could best be called Second Line Doo Wop. The orchestra shakes out a brassy dance rhythm and sings a soulful massed vocal while Paulin adds a swooning r'n'b-style solo.
It is not all New Orleans music, though. Other flavors of jazz and soul make appearances as well. "Dr. Hardgroove" is a slab of greasy funk with electric piano under the horn riffs which sound like 70s' Quincy Jones. "Mboya's Midnight Cocktail" is a sultry spoken-word fantasy dedicated to Marsalis' younger brother, Mboya, with Karen Livers playing the part of a female bartender talking seductively to the young man. Then there is the screaming punch of "Raid on the Mingus House Party"; as the title suggests, this piece marries New Orleans beats to the careening horns and dangerous edge of Charles Mingus' music, with compositions like "Jump Monk," "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," and "Boogie Stop Shuffle" hinted at along the way. Gregory Agid bubbles on clarinet, Khari Allen Lee and Scott Johnson exchange siren wails on tenors and Ryan Hanseler rolls on piano.
In his liner notes Delfeayo Marsalis talks about recording this music to make people happy. He and the orchestra do their best to achieve that goal. This music has a constant smile on its face, beaming with Southern sassiness and exploding with exuberant force. It is more unalloyed fun than most jazz albums and that is no bad thing these days.
Jazz Party; Blackbird Special; 7th Ward Boogaloo; Raid on the Mingus House Party; Mboya's Midnight
Orleans; Dr. Hardgroove; Let Your Mind Be Free; Irish Whiskey Blues; Caribbean Second Line; Mboya's