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Wynton Marsalis: Sweet Release and Ghost Story

C. Michael Bailey By

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Volume 5. Wynton Marsalis continues Swinging into the Twenty-first Century with this fifth installment of his projected eight volume series. So far we have had an interesting mix of classical and jazz, the orchestral and Kammermusik, the new and the old. Sweet Release and Ghost Story are two new ballets composed by Marsalis, joining his previously released Citi Movement (Columbia, 1992) and Jump Start and Jazz (Columbia , 1997).

The Combos. Sweet Release has Marsalis leading his drum- tight Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra while Ghost Story employs a saxophone-led quartet. Marsalis is equally at home composing in both settings, proving his importance to jazz with each note written or performed. He is proving to be a important composer, creating across genres horizontally and vertically.

Sweet Emotion. It could be easy to dismiss Marsalis' jazz ballet scores as simple extrapolations of his extended jazz compositions (Blue Interlude [Columbia, 1991], Big Train [Columbia, 1999]), but this would be fool hardy. The difference between the two is Swing. The extended compositions swing in the traditional jazz sense (whatever that might be), that self- propelled kinetic energy that makes your mind and ears tap their feet.

The ballets, most particularly Sweet Release, swing with a motion poetry manner of constantly shifting rhythms, all quite complex and striking. The writing is thoughtful and dense with creativity. Marsalis' command of saxophone orchestration is particularly impressive, as well as his writing for clarinet. It is no surprise that Marsalis is such an astute student of Duke Ellington.

Ghost Story. The frenetic density of Sweet Release is in stark contrast to spacious opulence of Ghost Story. The tone is at once relaxed and improvisatory. Ted Nash's reeds and winds gracefully discharges Marsalis' compositions with aplomb and refinement. The smaller format of the quartet is conducive to intimacy. Wynton Marsalis continues his march to the light with these two fine contemporary ballets.

Track Listing: Sweet Release: a ballet in five parts; Ghost Story: a ballet in eight parts.

Personnel: Sweet Release: Wynton Marsalis: Trumpet and Director; Roger Ingram: Trumpet; Ryan Kisor: Trumpet; Russell Gunn: Trumpet; Jamil Sharif: Trumpet; Wayne Goodman: Trombone; Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone, Tuba; Ronald Westray: Trombone; Bob Trowers: Trombone; Wessell Anderson: Alto and Sopranino Saxophone, Clarinet; Sherman Irby: Alto Saxophone, Clarinet; Ted Nash: Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Piccolo, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute; Stephen Riley: Tenor Saxophone; Victor Goines: Tenor, Alto, and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet; Gideon Feldstein: Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet; Eric Reed: Piano; Rodney Whitaker: Bass; Herlin Riley: Drums; Pernell Satarnino: Percussion; Stefon Harris: Percussion, Assistant Conductor.

Ghost Story: Ted Nash: Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flute; Eric Lewis; Carlito Henriquez: Bass; Rodney Whitaker: Bass; Jaz Sawyer; Drums.

Title: Sweet Release and Ghost Story | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Columbia Records

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