Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra - June 15, 2013

Celebrating 25 Years of Swing!

By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.

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Leading his 15-man Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on its 25th anniversary tour, at Verizon Hall located in the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA, Grammy award-winning composer, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, looking very dapper alongside the orchestra, provided this Philadelphia audience with an exciting evening of Jazz music – from Swing to the Avant-Garde.

As the band graced the stage, Marsalis stated that it is a great honor to be here this evening and we are going to have great time “swinging it up in here”. He also shared that it has been so glorious to be able to appear on stage with so many unbelievably talented musicians; and they will “negotiate the music” so that the audience gets the opportunity to hear each of these musicians “talk about what they want to say” on their respective instruments as well as experience the compositions written by several of the musicians.

The orchestra paid homage to the past, with a mixture of new arrangements on Jazz standards made famous by Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan and Chick Corea, as well as original compositions by several members or the orchestra. Their repertoire ranged from the 1920s to the 1960s, with lots of swing and featured solos by band members. The arrangements were so elegant with magnificent improvisations and solos by Marsalis, who was comfortably settled in with the trumpet section. It’s amazing to watch this accomplished band work so well together without anyone standing out front conducting.

The band opened with an original composition by Gerry Mulligan entitled "Swing House" displaying its diversity of instrumentation on flutes, clarinets and muted brass which added so many layers of sound to this piece. Trombonist Chris Crenshaw, was featured on his original composition for the trombone section entitled "The Creation," inspired by the biblical message of a 1929 poem “The Creation” written by James Weldon Johnson from the book “God’s Trombones: Some Negro Sermons in Verse”. The trombone section was fierce in expressing their solos. "The trombone comes the closest to the human voice with its bent pitches, scoops, and smears, and that very human quality is evident in everything that Johnson wrote."

Saxophonist Sherman Irby's performed a lively arrangement of Chick Corea's "Straight Up and Down" . Next the band performed a sultry blues ballad "I Left My Baby (Standing in the Back Door Crying)," sung by trombonist Chris Crenshaw. Irby's unique arrangement of "Baa Baa Black Sheep," featured the brass section bleating like sheep, which gave the tune such an interesting quality. The band then showcased an original piece, “Insatiable Hunger,” written by lead alto saxophone player Sherman Irby, funky ballad that was inspired by Dante’s “Inferno.”

After a brief intermission, we heard a kaleidoscopic set including Duke Ellington’s “Braggin’ In Brass”. Marsalis described this tune as so difficult for the featured trombone section that Ellington only performed it once. The chorus was a burst of staccato playing by Crenshaw, Gardner and Mason, with excellent brushwork by Ali Jackson on drums, illuminated by muted trumpets and blended trombones. Next bassist Carlos Henriquez's was featured on his original composition "Two-Threes Adventure," inspired by the orchestra's recent trip to Cuba.

Marsalis turned to the book of Count Basis and led the orchestra on his muted horn to the tune “Blues in Hoss Flat,” written by saxophonist Frank Foster. Pianist Nimmer was featured and Marsalis gave him space to expand his solo gracefully shifting moods and tempos.

The concert concluded with a standing ovation followed by an improvised finale featuring Marsalis on muted trumpet with bassist Henriquez, drummer Jackson and pianist Nimmer.
The audience was up on their feet.

Big bands don’t come any experienced or more elegant than Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra!

More images from the event are in Ben Johnson's photo gallery http://www.benjohnsonjazzphotos.com.

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.