by Bobby Reed
November 1, 2014
As the album title The 21st Century Trad Band suggests, Jason Marsalis’ quartet mixes modern-day sounds with traditional ones. The title track includes a quote from the most traditional of tunes, “When The Saints Go Marching In,” while the song “BP Shakedown” begins with a recording of Rep. Joe Barton’s comments on the federal government’s response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Marsalis, who topped the category Rising Star–Vibraphone in the 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll, has surrounded himself with fantastic musicians: pianist Austin Johnson, bassist Will Goble and drummer David Potter. Some of the album’s tracks feature the so-called Discipline Ensemble—Marsalis on marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibraphone and xylophone—but this is truly a band effort. The quartet has fashioned a strong album with an appeal that extends beyond the thrill of hearing a master of the mallets at work. One section of “Ratio Man” shows just how killer this band can be as a trio (when Marsalis isn’t playing). Marsalis’ tune “Nights In Brooklyn,” which has the feel of a film-noir soundtrack, features Potter’s supple brushwork and Johnson’s gorgeous piano lines. This album showcases Marsalis’ command of the vibraphone’s melodic and percussive qualities, as well as the leader’s eagerness to share the spotlight with his fine collaborators.