Last Affordable Set of the Year

Happy New Year, folks!  May 2012 be at least as eventful as 2011!

My last two forays of the year were into familiar territory.  The first was a set by the great, beloved/behated Wynton Marsalis.  This was certainly a show for the detractors to harp on.

The set consisted of the music of King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton.  The scores were all lifted from the source, and then merely expanded into six horns.  There was one original and the encore, which was original.  The original in the set was “All the Girls Go Crazy ‘Bout the Way I Ride”, which Wynton apparently tells audiences that Buddy Bolden wrote.  Not to much straying from the tradition of the 1920s there.

Now, I have no problem with this.  The thing that sparked my interest in this concert(other than being able to see Wynton from 4 feet away for 30 dollars and a drink.  Think Herbie-Level fame.) was that Wynton’s old sparring buddy, Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson was in the band, the first time I’ve heard of them playing together since I’ve been aware of their relationship.

An aside about community, once again.  There is a great connection between these men and their pianists.  In the 80s, Marcus Roberts was playing(and how!) in Wynton’s second-most celebrated band.  In the 90s, when the septet reared it’s head, Marcus said (and I quote) “Man, get Warmdaddy in this band, he’s bad”.  Wynton’s respect for Marcus being what it is, and Wes’ relationship with Marcus being what it was, Wynton agreed, and the rest is history.

In the early 00’s(we really need to come up with something more concrete there), Wes heard Dan Nimmer at Pumpkins in Brooklyn.  He called Wynton, as Eric Reed was planning on leaving the band, and said “Man, get Nimmer in your band, he’s bad”.  And the rest is history.  A nice anecdote, and I’m waiting to see who Nimmer suggests as a horn player around the bend.  Maybe it’s already happened, I don’t know.

Nimmer and Anderson are both indeed bad.  As was the entire band, consisting of the SWAT team within JALC.  Every person in that band has their instrument, time, feel, ears, and history completely together. Every solo is interesting, and the rhythm section always plays with the soloist, not behind them.

The section was actually the highlight of my night, they more than once achieved this lovely floating swing that you don’t hear anywhere else.  Totally great.  Dan is quite something, his touch is out of control good, and his take on right hand block chords is original and grimy.  Unfortunately, I asked him about it, and there’s no thought behind it, he’s just feeling everything out, so I’m out of luck on copping it.  The section also on occasion went into a Blues Alley style odd grouping frenzy, everyone completely on it at all times.  Wynton showed that he hasn’t exactly forgotten about that way of playing, diligently tapping his foot along with every figure they played.  This only happened in two situations, when the trio was playing alone, and behind Wes.

The horns were all great in their own ways too.  A massive shout out to Marcus Printup for being SO close to upstaging Wynton in his own club.  He is consistently interesting and impressive, not to mention soulful.  Seems like he can pull out any note at any time, a trademark of every trumpet player who has come through that band.  Walter Blanding and Victor Goines got into some great stuff too, weaving in and out of the language of Jelly Roll and Coltrane.  Anderson is always enjoyable, playing some triadic stuff you don’t hear too often.


That band was not meant for that music.  The current charge that is gaining speed for create bands that stick together is in play here; Wynton has had these guys for a long time, and it is everyone’s main gig at this moment.  They play together A LOT.  They’ve rehearsed in near-perfect scenarios 100 out of the last 365 days, and with some of the greatest musicians out there.  However, there are people who I’d rather see play King Oliver’s music.  Nothing against anyone in that band, but Ali, Carlos, Walter, and Warmdaddy are not the top of the top in that genre.

They weren’t kidding themselves, either.  Every solo that Walter took instantly went into post-bop mode.  Now, I’m not complaining, because every solo he took was killing, and those guys can really play.  It was more interesting than every Coltrane-robbing solo you hear these days, a million times over.  However, I question Wynton’s small group statement these days.  Musically, he’s always had something that grabs me creatively, always trying something new.  Lately, it’s been in his writing.  But this band harkened back to the 50s prestige days, where the statement was, let’s get some stock-level arrangements, the most killing band we can find, and make a record tomorrow.

This was better than that, because these guys know what each member of the band wants for dinner after the gig, but I wanted more vision from the visionary.

And then there’s the matter of the encore.  Every time I’ve ever seen Wynton play an encore, from April of 2004 until today, he has played Knozz-Moe-King as an encore.  I’ve seen him something like eleven times.  This time, he played two recent originals before he surprised me with Knozz-Moe-King, and it hurt even more.  If he played like that all the time, he would be the most killing trumpet player on the scene.  Bar no one, in my mind.  He’d have some contenders, but man, the fire that that man lays down when he wants to, coupled with that burning trio(who in my mind has basically just played through the gig in order to play Knozz-Moe at the end) is euphoria.  He says he’s never going to do it again, but I’m still keeping it in my prayers for good measure.  Tain, Hurst, and Marcus are all alive and well, after all, and sounding just as good as they used to.  Branford’s doing pretty well too, I hear.

At the end of the concert, Wynton admirably fulfilled his duty as ambassador of Jazz, telling the audience to go see live music, naming ten or so clubs that are open every night.  “It’s not going to get done by itself, so we have to do it.”  True say.

Too broke to go to the(kind of lame looking, in my opinion) Winter Jazz Fest this year, but I’ll be hitting a KILLING mystery show on Thursday.  If I can steal the money, I’ll also go see Matt Wilson on Saturday.  I can’t quit him.

One more review, and then hopefully something more musical.  I’ve been trying to do some work.  Trying.

“Swing: willful participation with style and coordination” -Wynton’s definition of swing



~ by Martin Porter on January 3, 2012.

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