Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Delfeayo Marsalis: The Last Southern Gentleman

Troubadour Jazz
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: The Last Southern Gentleman

Most fans are familiar with the Marsalis clan, often known as the “First Family of Jazz.” Eighty-year-old Ellis plays piano, followed by sons Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo on (respectively) trumpet, tenor sax and trombone. This album features Ellis and Delfeayo, with support from bassist John Clayton and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. 

The menu is a treasure trove of melodies from the Great American Songbook; my generation grew up with 12 of these 13 tracks, which also probably are familiar to a lot of our older children. “The Man with Two Left Feet” could be considered the least-known outlier. But who can forget standards such as “Autumn Leaves,” “She’s Funny That Way,” “My Romance,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “If I Were a Bell” and the many others? 

Ellis Marsalis is a pianist for all ages. He’s both tasteful and an impressive swinger; you can’t listen to him without snapping fingers or moving some part of your body. He spends more time teaching than recording, which has been the case for many years. Aside from his sons, his numerous students have included Harry Connick Jr. and Terence Blanchard. And during Ellis’ earlier years, he played with icons such as Al Hirt and the Adderley Brothers.

Delfeayo has served as a sideman for both Wynton and Branford, as well as alongside leaders such as Ray Charles, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones; he has headed his own groups since the late 1990s. He was influenced by J.J. Johnson, but Delfeayo has a more “musical” style. 

Needless to say, Ellis and Delfeayo are an excellent match. Clayton is one of the greats on bass, and Smith delivers a groovin’ rhythm section. 

The liner notes are provided by Delfeayo, who also produced this disc; the commentary is excellent and entertaining. I’d expect no less from a great release that offers such swinging music.

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