by RJ Frometa
October 28, 2014
Jason Marsalis, the youngest of New Orleans’ Marsalis jazz dynasty, has released his second Vibes Quartet offering, The 21st Century Trad Band, today via Basin Street Records! The follow-up to 2013’s In A World Of Mallets, which hit #1 on the JazzWeek radio charts, The 21st Century Trad Band puts a spotlight on the growing synergy between the young & talented musicians consisting of Jason himself, Will Goble on bass, Austin Johnson on piano & David Potter on drums. For a taste of what to expect from the album, the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet previously unveiled cuts “The 21st Century Trad Band” & “Ratio Man.”
With songs on the album like “Offbeat Personality” Marsalis takes us on a journey through a complex arrangement combining hard-swinging sections with more melodic interludes, unexpected turn-arounds, and an introspective outro. While songs like “The Man With Two Left Feet” and the titular track play with the trad jazz idiom in a contemporary modality. What’s clear throughout the album is the developed control the band has cultivated through further years of playing together; the unspoken communication is evident.
As with previous albums, Marsalis continues his “Discipline” series accompanying himself on a variety of mallet-based instruments including Marimba, Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Vibraphone, and Xylophone, further establishing his voice as a mallet-player with the off-kilter blues of “Discipline Meets the Offbeat One” and several interludes with unusual rhythmic patterns and meters.
In addition to including original compositions from his band mates, Marsalis has taken a step further in encouraging the vanguard of the next generation of jazz by including compositions of the young New Orleans musicians Cliff Hines (“Interzone”) and Jasen Weaver (“Blues for Now”), both graduates of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
The shear amount of music, seamless interludes, and a track reflecting on the BP Oil Spill, “BP Shakedown” are testaments to Marsalis’ serious nature towards his work. But just as he touched on playful, uncharted territory with In A World of Mallets’ “Ballet Class” he explores a film noire theme with “Nights in Brooklyn.”
Banjoist Bela Fleck has praised Marsalis for “brilliant ideas that sound as if he’s played them his whole life, but are really coming off the top of his head.” The NEA Jazzmaster stated himself that his last record was “the beginning of a new chapter.” It’s clear The 21st Century Trad Band is a continuation of that chapter, and it’s full of those “brilliant ideas” for which the bandleader has become known.