Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wynton Marsalis: He and She

Blue Note Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.1.09
Buy CD: He and She

Wynton Marsalis needs no introduction: He's a musician exemplar, a composer, arranger and leader.

Indeed, he has become the same type of figurehead in today's music world that Duke Ellington was in his day. And Marsalis isn't just a musician, he's a Pulitzer Prize-winning artist. From the sheer standpoint of instrumental excellence, he's probably the finest trumpet player alive; his tone is pure, his technique is excellent, and he's imaginative and innovative.

He can — and has — played every musical genre, from classical through jazz of all types. And, as evidenced by this CD, he's a poet.

He and She explores, as the liner notes explain, “the relationship between a man and a woman.” This takes place progressively, from the “schoolboy” through the “young adult” phases of life. As these periods pass, so do the musical styles that provide background for this emotional progression. A dozen “intervals” are covered, each preceded by a spoken free-verse introduction.

Marsalis' style advanced as he grew as an artist, from swinging bop through funk and then fusion; he then returned to earlier jazz periods. His groups, whether combos or big bands, tackle compositions that reflect the sounds of days-gone-by music and artists.

That's true of this release as well, although he masterfully entwines that earlier style with the more modern feel of today's artists. The result is quite engaging: Marsalis tells a familiar and compelling story that'll hold your attention ... and, as with a good book, you'll want to experience it again and again.

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