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May 2008

Irvin Mayfield & Ellis Marsalis
Love Songs, Ballads and Standards
Basin Street Records

Had pianist and New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis chosen the tunes for this collection of studio and concert performances rather than the 30-year-old New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, perhaps it would have been bookended by renditions of Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” instead of Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.” But if you blame the inclusion of the McCartney tune—or, for that matter, a couple of pop hits recorded by Stevie Wonder and Norah Jones—on Mayfield’s youth, you also have to credit him for presenting his mentor in a fresh and revealing light.

Listening to Marsalis help percussively recast Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Like a Star,” for instance, is among the album’s biggest treats. Most of the highlights, however, find Mayfield and Marsalis soulfully interpreting vintage pop and jazz favorites, aided by bassist Neal Caine and drummer Jaz Sawyer’s hand-in-glove support. Simpatico is evident throughout, as is the trumpeter’s blues-inflected palette, whether the focus is on a tender, brush-stroked recital of “My One and Only Love” or a now solemn, now strutting and sharply syncopated take on Bill Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues.” Augmenting the studio tracks are three concert recordings featuring the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, including a flaring orchestration of “In a Sentimental Mood.” None, though, is match for the close-knit performances inspired by Harold Arlen’s “Come Rain or Come Shine,” Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” and Burt Bacharach’s “A House is Not a Home.” The album is dedicated to Mayfield’s father, who lost his life when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Originally published in May 2008
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