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Delfeayo Marsalis: Kalamazoo

Dan Bilawsky By

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How is it that we haven't been gifted a live album from trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis before? He's been such an important part of the fabric of this music, whether producing works of lasting significance for other jazz greats in the studio, sharing space with his famous family, or leading his Uptown Orchestra through a rousing set in the Crescent City, yet there's nothing in his leader discography to highlight what it's truly like to hear one of his shows in the flesh. Somehow, he just never got around to giving us a good representation of his work on stage. Until now, that is.

Kalamazoo captures Marsalis in April of 2015, in the midst of a mini-tour supporting The Last Southern Gentleman (Troubadour Jass, 2014). For the fourth concert of a seven-date jaunt, the trombonist landed at the Dalton Center Recital Hall at Western Michigan University. The band for the occasion—a first-rate quartet comprised of pianist-patriarch Ellis Marsalis, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Ralph Peterson—performed for a children's concert in the morning and then came back to deliver the standards-heavy main set presented here. It's every bit as classy as one might expect. From the thrilling opening crawl through "Tin Roof Blues" to a strutting "Sesame Street Theme" with some plunger mute magic all the way til the appropriately nostalgic "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" closer, Delfeayo and company prove captivating.

While most of these songs have been performed ad infinitum, there's a certain level of stylistic legitimacy in these interpretations that you just don't get to experience very often. Hearing Delfeayo deliver wonderfully woozy lyrical lines, full-bore solos, and the occasional artful gliss is pure joy. Ditto for the opportunity to hear a New Orleans legend like Ellis doubling down on Ellington by throwing out a "Second Line" quote during "It Don't Mean A Thing," crafting a sterling "If I Were A Bell," and giving us all a lesson in jazz piano comportment. And the icing on the cake, of course, is encountering a rhythm team that's as on-the-money as Veal and Peterson.

In addition to the musical jubilance projected by this foursome, there's a generosity of spirit that shines through in what they do for the next generation. Delfeayo invites two WMU students—vocalist Christian O'Neill Diaz and drummer Madison George—to join the band in the act of spontaneous creation, resulting in the pleasingly down-the-middle "Blue Kalamazoo." It's a small gesture from the band leader's perch, but it's the type of experience that students need in order to better understand what the music is all about. While no single album can capture an artist's sound, soul, and spirit, this one does a fine job in giving us a glimpse of the real and true Delfeayo Marsalis.

Track Listing: Tin Roof Blues; Autumn Leaves; My Funny Valentine; Sesame Street Theme; If I Were A Bell; The Secret Love Affair; It Don't Mean A Thing; Introducing The Blues; Blue Kalamazoo; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?.

Personnel: Delfeayo Marsalis: trombone; Ellis Marsalis, Jr.: piano; Reginald Veal: bass; Ralph Peterson: drums.

Title: Kalamazoo | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Troubadour Jass

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