219

Delfeayo Marsalis: Sweet Thunder

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
Delfeayo Marsalis: Sweet Thunder Was Delfeayo Marsalis undertaking a task too challenging when he recorded music from one of Duke Ellington's most beloved albums to make Sweet Thunder? Gunther Schuller offers a doctrine that seems to suggest this has been so. Apparently the size and composition of the ensemble lead to this mishap. Would it have been remiss, to replicate the tonal colors that Ellington brought forth when he recorded Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia, 1957)—his jazz musical interpretation/relocation of the iambic pentameter of William Shakespeare's mighty dramatics from some of his greatest plays, including the celebrated monologues—without the deep colorings of Harry Carney's baritone, the woody shades of Russell Procope's or Jimmy Hamilton's clarinets? Or is all lost without the lovelorn splendor of Johnny Hodges' alto, playing Juliet to Paul Gonsalves' tenor, recreating the stricken descent of Romeo?

So the question is: Does Delfeayo Marsalis' album hit or miss the mark? The truth is: Marsalis has created a highly literate canon that not only pays reverent homage to Ellington's interpretation of Shakespeare's dramaturgy, but does so in a fresh and authentic manner. This does not suggest that the eminent spirits of past musicians are not recalled and missed. However, Shakespeare is dramatic adventure and, while being art of the highest order, here Marsalis turns it into another timeless album, with nuanced shades and colors bringing to life characters and emotions that are just as nuanced. If anything may be gained from Marsalis' recreation of the marriage of Elizabethan drama and Ellingtonian jazz, it is that the historic event of 1957 at the Shakespearean Festival in Stratford, Ontario can be recast in a contemporary setting, with a renewed sense of adventure.

On the aching colors of "Star-Crossed Lovers," alto saxophonist Mark Gross weeps and wails as Juliet, it's almost possible to see the tears running down the cheek of Marsalis' Romeo—who, in turn, is deeply tinged with indigo and eventually crimson. Marsalis' Othello is defiant and heroic to the sly glissando of Victor Goines' Iago in "Sonnet in Search of a Moor"—or, as the shrill antics of his soprano saxophone conjure up the charming skittishness of Puck. Then there is David Pulpus' bubbling and boiling, as Tiger Okoshi's trumpet, Mulgrew Miller's piano and Mark Gross' alto saxophone summon the spirits via Graymalkin and her cackling friends in Macbeth. Branford Marsalis' brilliantly forlorn soprano saxophone essays into the mighty conquests of Julius Caesar, as it all comes to naught in the grim double stops of Pulpus' bass, signaling the grim fall of the celebrated emperor with its return to the wild flaying of Marsalis' soprano, while Victor "Red" Atkins' piano signals the bloody end.

The unfolding of Sweet Thunder is one the Bard would surely enjoy—as would Ellington, for all its sense of surprise, as elastic, idiomatic jazz intertwines with the iambic adventure of the very best Shakespearean interpretations.


Track Listing: Such Sweet Thunder; Sonnet for Sister Kate; Sonnet to Hank Cinq; Half the Fun; Up & Down, Up & Down; Madness in Great Ones; Star-Crossed Lovers; Sonnet in Search of a Moor; The Telecasters; Sonnet for Caesar; Lady Mac; Circle of Fourths.

Personnel: Delfeayo Marsalis: trombone; Branford Marsalis: soprano saxophone (1, 5, 9, 10); Charnett Moffett: bass (5, 6, 8, 11, 12); Winard Harper: drums (1, 3-5, 7, 11); Jason Marshall: baritone saxophone (1, 3-6, 9-11), bass clarinet (2, 8); Victor Goines: tenor saxophone (2, 6, 8), sopranino saxophone (6), soprano saxophone (11); Reginald Veal: bass (1); Mark Gross: alto saxophone (1-11), tenor saxophone (4), soprano saxophone (6); Mulgrew Miller: piano (1, 7, 9); Victor "Red" Atkins: piano (3-6, 8, 10-12); Jason Marsalis: drums (2, 6, 8-10, 12), percussion (4); David Pulpus: bass (3, 4, 7, 9, 10); Tiger Okoshi: trumpet (1, 3-6, 9-11); Mark Shim: tenor saxophone (3, 12).

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Troubadour Jass | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Love Song" CD/LP/Track Review Love Song
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 20, 2016
Read "Music of Weather Report" CD/LP/Track Review Music of Weather Report
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Spring Feelings" CD/LP/Track Review Spring Feelings
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 20, 2016
Read "Life and Other Transient Storms" CD/LP/Track Review Life and Other Transient Storms
by John Sharpe
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Southern Avenue" CD/LP/Track Review Southern Avenue
by James Nadal
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Born In An Urban Ruin" CD/LP/Track Review Born In An Urban Ruin
by John Sharpe
Published: January 24, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!