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Saturday, May 20, 2006

WYNTON MARSALIS The Wynton Marsalis Quartet Live at Blues Alley

Columbia PC2 40675 (1988)

Recorded near the end of Wynton Marsalis' ascendancy to keeper of the traditional jazz flame, Live at Blues Alley is quite a bit looser, even rowdier, than his studio albums of the same period. The live setting of a small club with an appreciative audience seems to inspire the musicians into some of their freest (and, occasionally, most frenzied) playing on record.

Take the opening tune, "Knozz-Moe-King". Marsalis leads his quartet through the manic free-bop changes like Miles Davis and his sixties quintet, careening recklessly around the implied harmonies, soloing freely off little more than drummer Jeff Watts' pounding rhythms, yet able to stop and start together on a dime. Or pianist Marcus Roberts' solo on "Juan", where he gets deep into a riff, repeating it over and over with different rhythmic inflections until it threatens to shake itself loose from the beat altogether. The highlight of the album is probably the fifteen-minute "Chambers of Tain", a showcase for Watts' prodigious percussion chops in which his solo seems arranged into chapters that resolve into a recurring theme.

Things calm down a bit on side three, with a fairly straightforward reading of Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" and a touching rendition of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans", but, for the most part, Live at Blues Alley is fierce, virtuosic hard bop that crackles with energy and invention and shows an unexpected (but welcome) side of Wynton Marsalis.


At 6:23 PM, Anonymous stephen said...

Happy Belated Birthday Pete!

I don't visit anywhere near enough but I truly enjoy your blog here.

I'd been going through a Last Waltz binge lately and was wondering if I could read your take on The Band and lo and behold you reviewed them last month! And Colin Newman! And and...

Anyway I really enjoy and trust your taste and on the odd occassion when you review someone I'm not familiar with I have full confidence that there will be something in there that I'll get a kick out of.

Anyway; a present for you:

I like the way that he incorporates 30 second mp3 snippets into his assertions.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Peter MacDonald said...

Thanks, Stephen! I enjoy your blog as well (which everyone should visit). Your toons have a very cerebral, subconscious feel to them and are highly enjoyable. Everybody go check 'em out!


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