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Delfeayo Marsalis: Minions’ Dominion

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The fabled Marsalis technical dexterity is on full display here, as is the characteristic meld of pop-culture accessibility and high-art aspiration (“Brer Rabbit” was the closing theme of the ABC miniseries Moon Over Miami; “Lost in the Crescent,” a reprise of Marsalis’ earlier “The Beautyful Ones,” is an antebellum fable set to music that derives from influences as varied as Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”). The presence of Elvin Jones provides deep rhythmic texture and indefatigable swing throughout, but it also fits snugly into the ongoing Marsalis agenda of honoring jazz innovators in a context that recasts them as standard-bearers of tradition-a kind of stealth conservatism summed up here by Marsalis’ observation in the liner notes that “Elvin Jones, the most modern of modern percussionists, listened to Louis (Pops) Armstrong relentlessly.”

Elvin Jones, ur-neocon? That characterization all too eloquently reveals this set’s most crippling limitation: In the spirit made (in)famous by brother Wynton, Marsalis sounds mostly determined to recodify erstwhile radical innovations-bop, postbop, even a few tentative stabs at Trane-ish freedom seeking-and transform them into paradigms of propriety.

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