March 1999

Jason Marsalis
The Year of the Drummer
Basin Street Records

Drawing on influences as seemingly diverse as certain shades of his bro. Wynton's tradition-proud writing and the organic percussive universe of Leon Parker, youngest brother Jason Marsalis has crafted a thoughtful and ultimately satisfying debut as a leader. A drummer of apparently boundless capacity and musical appetite, and one whose skill level grows practically each time you hear him, the tall youngster won't overwhelm listeners on first listen, but the gifts grow exponentially upon repeated listens.
Sporting a quintet composed of fellow New Orleans rookies, Jason displays a promising sense of composition in his music, exhibiting feeling and nuance. Not content to just hit, Marsalis is into creation, and that holds true for his drumset approach as well. There are short drum vignettes used as bridges, with percussion overdubs, as well as hands-on-traps (see his "Hand Jivin'"), whose inspiration he credits to Parker. And there is a penchant for blue elegance, a la the leisurely unfolding of "Death March of Our Time." Wayne Shorter's gorgeous "Penelope" is included in the program to inject a new standard into the ballad repertoire.

Originally published in March 1999
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