by Dan MacIntosh
November 3, 2014
If you think the Marsalis family line ended with trumpeter Wynton and saxophonist Branford, you’re wrong because vibe play Jason Marsalis – the youngest sibling – has just released his second Vibes Quartet recording, The 21st Century Trad Band, on Basin Street Records. It’s the follow up to 2013’s In a World of Mallets, which made it to number 1 on the JazzWeek radio charts. This new effort continues the collaboration between Marsalis and his band, which includes Will Goble on bass, Austin Johnson on piano and David Potter at the drums.
The album includes tracks like “Offbeat Personality,” which features a complex arrangement that mixes hard-swinging with melodic segments, as well as a few unexpected turn-arounds and a quiet intro. “The Man with Two Left Feet,” on the other hand, matches traditional jazz elements with a more contemporary feel. It shows what happens when a band is able to log many miles and years together prior to recording together.
Marsalis incorporates a wide variety of instruments on this release, including marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells (remember The Exorcist theme?), vibraphone and xylophone. One track is even a bit of an off-kilter blues workout called “Discipline Meets the Offbeat One.”
This album once again includes compositions from Marsalis’ band mates, but also features some works by fellow New Orleans musicians. For instance, Cliff Hines’s “Interzone” is included, as is Jason Weaver’s “Blues for Now.” Both men are graduates of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
Marsalis also gets a little social/political on one track, “BP Shakedown,” which is obviously inspired by the BP oil spill. A further sonic exploration is “Nights in Brooklyn,” which takes on film noire sounds.
Marsalis has already received high praise from other respected musicians. Banjoist Bela Fleck, for example, noted Marsalis’ “brilliant ideas that sound as if he’s played them his whole life, but are really coming off the top of his head.”
Although trumpeter Wynton is the most famous member of the family, his father, Ellis, is also a respected play. Brother Delfeayo Marasalis is a trombone player and producer. Wynton is a teacher and music educator, in addition to a composer and player. Anybody that’s ever seen him perform live has experienced his teaching skills — he loves to talk jazz history. He is also Artistic Director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Over the years, he’s won nine Grammys – in both jazz and classical music. In fact, one of his recordings was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, the first of its kind. Now, Jason is making a bold entry into this amazing family tradition.