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January/February 2000

Wynton Marsalis
Mr. Jelly Lord: Standard Time Vol. 6
Columbia Jazz

Wynton Marsalis appears to have been as prolific a recording studio denizen as was his late mentor, Miles Davis. So apparently overcrowded are the Columbia vaults with Marsalis sessions that Wynton is concluding an unprecedented blitz of seven recordings in seven months, including suites, standards, and homage dates. Mr. Jelly Lord falls in the latter category as Marsalis leads 12 members of his broadening crew of familiars through 15 gems Jelly Roll Morton left here for us to learn. Befitting the historic importance, not to mention self-importance of Mr. Jelly Lord, as the iconoclastic, brilliant, often profane Morton was known, the music is addressed by no fewer than four very divergent pianists: Eric Lewis, Eric Reed, Danilo Perez, and Harry Connick, Jr.
As the tracks wend their way through familiar bits of Morton's repertoire like "Red Hot Pepper", "King Porter Stomp", and "The Pearls," alternated with lesser- knowns like "Sidewalk Blues" and "Dead Man Blues", the impression that Marsalis has invested considerable time digging through Morton's muse is clear. And thankfully the band does not address Jelly's music as period pieces, but on Wynton's own terms; not as deconstructionist, but as reverent update. Hewing to the tradition of this music, while giving it a contemporary polish is no small feat, yet it is accomplished here with aplomb. Hear, for example, his spare arrangement of "King Porter Stomp"-muted trumpet with piano accompaniment, achieving a relaxed and soulful approach to the classic.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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