While Wynken and Blinken Marsalis are busy doing their high profile activities to bring jazz to a much broader audience (read:rich people), the two lesser known and in many ways more exciting and talented Marsaliseses, Delfeayo & Jason, continue to stay low profile and play jazz for jazz fans.
Delfeayo's most recent release, "MINION'S DOMINION," is a fantastic record that features the late great drum legend Elvin Jones, in his final recorded appearance. And last night, at the most odious of all NYC venues, the Blue Note, Delfeayo Marsalis and his sextet, paid tribute to Mr. Jones with a solid, if somewhat safe set, that featured the Baby Marsalis, Jason, filling in on traps.
The band included the very tasty Anthony Wonsey on piano, bassist Gerald Cannon from that jazz mecca we call Milwaukee, and Mark Shim & Dave Liebman both on tenor, with Delfeayo leading the way on trombone. The material was as I said earlier, a bit safe. Two Marsalis originals opened the set, "Brer Rabbit," and "The Lone Warrior," the latter written for Elvin Jones. Both songs were your standard 15 minutes workouts, giving each musician time to loosen up. Everyone on the bandstand was quite capable, but no one, aside from Jason on drums, offered anything to take home.
It was on the next song, a slow, heartbreaking rendition of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," where the band wore their hearts on their sleeves. Delfeayo took the melody to new heights on the trombone, and turned this song into a gospel.
The band closed the set with the Duke's (Ellington not Snyder)"It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing." Again, all band members got their moment, but it was Jason's drum solo that got the biggest ovation, as it usually does. Tall and lanky, Jason Marsalis somehow manages to create tone and more important, melody on his drumkit, while still astonishing the audience with his speed and often unorthodox soloing. He turned an average night into something to remember.
Now, back to the Blue Note. I don't know anyone who resides in NYC and goes to the Blue Note unless they absolutely have to. It is expensive, unfriendly and uncomfortable. It is a tourist trap, regardless of its history, and a mostly unpleasant experience for all.
I made my reservation almost a month ago for this show. I try to catch Jason Marsalis anytime he is in NY. My wife and I arrived 30 minutes prior to showtime, and got seated behind the piano, with a perfect view of Anthony Wonsey's ass. We were seated at a table for 4, with 6 people and had to watch most of the show by staring at the reflection in the designer mirror, opposite the stage. Thanks to the wooden paneling across the mirror, it often looked liked Mark Shim's head on Delfeayo's body, or Gerald Cannon plucking Dave Liebman's sax.
Delfeayo Marsalis said something very interesting soon after he took the stage last night. "Back in the 1900's, horn players had to make their horns sound like voices in order to get gigs. We are sort of keeping that tradition, only we still can't get gigs." Well Delfeayo, it's not only jazz and its musicians who can't get respect. It's the fans, as well. And you can thank the Blue Note for keeping that tradition. See you at Jazz Standard.