Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Jason Marsalis: Music Update


Jason Marsalis: Music Update


Sign in to view read count
Jason Marsalis: Music Update
It's not like Jason Marsalis has been invisible since he released Music in Motion (Basin Street, 2002); his name's just been on the back of CD booklets instead of the front. With Music Update, Marsalis is back at the top of the bill, except he's brought a different set of sticks with him, or more specifically, a new set of mallets.

Well, not completely new, it seems Marsalis began experimenting with the vibraphone as a primary instrument about eight years ago, and has been working on a vibes-centered group concept for some time. That group came together when he met pianist Austin Johnson, bassist Will Goble, and drummer David Potter during a residency at Florida State University. Given that most of the pieces on Update were penned by Marsalis, any thoughts that this might be a "gadget CD" or a one-off caprice, can be shelved right away.

"Guess Who's Back" picks up a running feature on Motion: Marsalis is behind his "old" kit, and thanks to the miracle of multi-tracking, he becomes a one-man drum corps, exploring all possibilities of a single establishing figure. "Guess" is the first track of (for lack of a better title) "The Discipline Suite," as Marsalis works through several similar "solo" spots where his drumming is influenced by musical schools ranging from New Orleans Second Line and Japanese Taiko to—of all things—disco!

Fortunately, the last school doesn't come up until the last track. What follows "Guess" is the aptly-titled "Offbeat Personality," a track that alternates between swinging and foreboding, as Marsalis and his partners jump through multiple time signatures while putting down some pretty sweet sounds. Some of the changes are pretty intricate (an interesting choice, given that Marsalis' vibes work is relatively rudimentary), but the quartet hits every one perfectly. The music may not always be riveting, but the group dynamic on Update certainly touches that quality.

While Marsalis gives big props to vibes legend Lionel Hampton with loving covers of Hampton's "Midnight Sun" and Charlie Christian's "Seven Come Eleven," the overall sound on the recording is more reminiscent of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Johnson makes a fine John Lewis to Marsalis' Milt Jackson, each of them putting significant content into a sound that has been unfairly dismissed as "too cool." In many ways, Johnson is the superior soloist, which he demonstrates on "Blues for the 29%ers," but this can be chalked up to Marsalis speaking in what amounts to a second language. When the two work hand- in-glove on "Ballet Class" and Toninho Horta's "Durango Kid," it's nothing but beautiful.

Music Update doesn't break much new ground, but it must be seen to inspire tracks on "The Discipline Suite"—an establishing figure. What direction Marsalis takes with that figure will determine whether he can work outside the comfort zone he has created. Given his compositional skill and the potential he shows on his "new" instrument, this could get interesting.

Track Listing

Guess Who's Back; Offbeat Personality; Ballet Class; Discipline returns Once Again; Characters; Blues for the 29%ers (down to 18%); Discipline Vacations in Asia; Midnight Sun; Seven Come Eleven; Discipline Mellows Out; Durango kid; Western Vacation Ranch; Discipline Spotted Baby and Zutty at Studio 54.


Jason Marsalis

Jason Marsalis: vibes, drum (1, 4, 7, 10, 13); Austin Johnson: piano; Will Goble: bass; David Potter: drums.

Album information

Title: Music Update | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ELM Records




For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Eagle's Point
Chris Potter
Can You Hear It?
Mikko Innanen / Cedric Piromalli / Stefan Pasborg
Elegy for Thelonious
Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble


Jazz Hands
Bob James
London Afrobeat Collective
Light Streams
John Donegan - The Irish Sextet

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.