[Dixielandjazz] Quo Vadis, Jazz?

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 12 06:30:21 PST 2005

Interesting review for several reasons. One, the Marsalis Septet is a blend
of New Orleans and Straight Ahead Jazz. Two, they are connecting N.O. to the
more modern forms in their presentation. Three, they even put a somewhat
avant garde group on the bill also, which style Lincoln Center has
heretofore pretty much ignored.

Does this indicate the emergence of a broader Jazz audience in NYC? Will it
be a trend that spreads?

BTW drummer Herlin Riley has an extraordinary New Orleans 4/4 feel for those
who may not have heard him yet. He is a typical example of a black N.O. Jazz
player, like Nicholas Payton and Wycliff Gordon, that many would say doesn't
exist. And were it not for Marsalis, they might still be totally unknown
among us Dixielanders.

Steve Barbone


Old Friends Get Together, Feeling Right at Home

When Wynton Marsalis performs with his septet in New York these days, it is
a special occasion. He toured Europe with the band a few years ago, but his
duties at Lincoln Center as well as his ambitions to compose large works for
big ensembles reached critical mass in the late 1990's. So the septet faded
into the background.

But it's good to be reminded of what it achieved. On Wednesday, at Rose
Theater, the band entered from stage left, the musicians chanting in a slow
single-file entrance, moving and stomping their feet in parade rhythm. As
soon as they took their positions and dug into the tune - it was Mr.
Marsalis's "Ain' No" - they flooded the acoustical space in the room.

This is what ownership sounds like. It's his house, and Mr. Marsalis's
septet energized it in a way that I hadn't seen since Rose, the home of the
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, opened last October. The band was obviously
feeling good as it produced its enormous sound; the groove of the rhythm
section (Farid Barron on piano, Reginald Veal on bass, and Herlin Riley on
drums) was so emphatic and authoritative that it liberated everyone else,
shoving them into a no-recrimination zone to do whatever they wanted.

They all took advantage of the situation, but a few moments stood out.
Victor Goines, playing soprano saxophone, stole his way up the horn on the
first tune and built a solo out of single notes with wide vibrato. He was
connecting Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane, and suddenly, without much
forecasting, the rhythm lurched from New Orleans into four bars of rhythm
suggesting the Coltrane quartet's. Then the music turned into "Black Codes
(From the Underground)," a much earlier Marsalis tune.

Wycliffe Gordon, the band's trombonist, came on stage singing, or actually
yelling, and where his mouth stopped his horn took over. (The burry
hollering through his instrument suggested the voice; it's all one thing
with him.) He's one of jazz's larger-than-life players, and he was a gusher
of texture and sound effects, all tightly attached to the going rhythm.

Mr. Marsalis spent his time moving around the stage, bouncing his notes off
different walls of the theater-in-the-round like a squash player. In "The
Death of Jazz," a slow minor blues, he found his purest expression, playing
a stream of original phrases that lay outside normal blues vocabulary. And
behind the singer Dianne Reeves, who joined the band for three songs, he
continued his experiments in sound and rhythm; Ms. Reeves, who has a voice
like an aircraft carrier, pushed the band to even fuller projection,
particularly on a scatted version of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys."

The evening was special for another reason, too, in that it paired Mr.
Marsalis on a double bill with Dave Douglas. (The concert was sponsored by
HIP Health Plan of New York.) Mr. Douglas has a lot in common with Mr.
Marsalis: a gifted, precise trumpeter and composer rooted in jazz, a
prolific recordmaker, an effective organizer within his own circle. But his
circle has been more experimental - what used to be called "downtown" jazz -
and Jazz at Lincoln Center hasn't shown much interest in annexing that
audience. Mr. Douglas, with his quintet, worked hard and seriously, and
managed to go over well anyway.

With Uri Caine playing a Fender Rhodes keyboard and Donny McCaslin on tenor
saxophone, as well as the bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn,
it's a band that starts from the generalized sound of late-60's Miles Davis.
But Mr. Douglas's tight compositions, using little pockets of ostinato,
strong harmonic motion and contrapuntal writing, aren't ordinary or
derivative, and what he's borrowing more than anything else is urgency: the
sense of foreboding that Davis evoked. And with titles like "The Sheik of
Things to Come" and "Culture Wars," it was clear that Mr. Douglas's
compositions had social and political influences as well as jazz-history

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