July 18, 2015 Article by Dave Read
Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra gave a concert in Ozawa Hall yesterday that could serve as the template for all concerts: two sets artfully arranged to engage, sustain, and satisfy an auditor’s attention, with just the right measure of exposition from the stage to establish a conversation, contextualize the selections, and identify the musicians. Marsalis was an amiable host from his 3rd row seat in the trumpet section of the band, which he led through an overview of early 20th century jazz in the first set, followed by a set made up of compositions and arrangements by musicians in the band.
Tonight’s concert got underway with fairly quiet and subtle playing on compositions from the 1930s by Benny Carter, Symphony in Riffs and Duke Ellington, Mood Indigo. By the time the 3rd piece was over, George Gershwin’s Fascinating Rhythm, we knew we were in for quite a treat, as we’d already heard lovely solos by Marsalis on trumpet, Victor Goines on clarinet, and all three trombone players. The set ended with Things to Come by Dizzy Gillespie, which afforded everybody ample space to play, especially the exquisite rhythm section, emerging in the wake of a long trumpet run.
After intermission, the concert continued with a piece called 2/3 Adventure, by bassist Carlos Henriquez, then one rooted in spirituals by trombonist Chris Crenshaw. Next in the spotlight was pianist Dan Nimmer with a selection from a suite he composed from important political speeches. That was followed by sax player Sherman Irby’s arrangement of a composition by Wayne Shorter, who played with the orchestra recently.
The concert closed with Marsalis’s own Back to Basics from his Oratorio, Blood on the Fields, the first jazz composition to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music (1997). Everyone in the band got another chance to solo, with Marsalis himself bringing it all to a humorous, muttering conclusion, waving the plunger mute over the bell of his trumpet.
Marsalis dedicates concert to the late Gunther Schuller
Marsalis dedicated the concert to the late Gunther Schuller, telling the audience that his stint at the Berkshire Music Center, which Schuller ran from 1970 until 1984, “changed my life.” At 17, he was the youngest musician ever admitted; two years later, he joined the Jazz Messengers lead by legendary drummer and bandleader Art Blakey.