JazzTimes 10: Jazz Albums with Strings

When we play them, we hear the sound of violins

10. Wynton Marsalis: Hot House Flowers (Columbia, 1984)

The obvious antecedent for Hot House Flowers is Clifford Brown with Strings, although Wynton Marsalis scales back the strings considerably from Hefti’s florid arrangements (“the maudlin menaces of the human heart,” per Stanley Crouch’s liner notes). In that sense, it’s more connected to Winter Moon: It leaves more room for cookin’ interaction with Marsalis’ working rhythm section (featuring pianist Kenny Kirkland and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, with Ron Carter sitting in on the bass chair). His tenor-sax brother Branford makes comments as well. The textures are at their best when they simply fill out key passages, as on “Django” and Marsalis’ title track. Even so, their billowy appearance on “For All We Know” is the most elaborate that the orchestra gets; Hot House Flowers is a jazz-with-strings document that is best distinguished by its taste.


Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.