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Jason Marsalis – Heirs Of The Crescent City – Elm Records

Jason Marsalis – Heirs Of The Crescent City – Elm Records ELM 19792, 66:11 ****:

An interesting brief musical “tour d’horizon” of the Crescent City.

(Tracks 1-5; 7-8; 11-12: Jason Marsalis – drums, percussion; Ashlin Parker – trumpet; Joe Goldberg – tenor saxophone, clarinet; Austin Johnson – piano; Peter Harris – bass; Tracks 6 & 9: Jason Marsalis – vibraphone; Austin Johnson – piano; Jasen Weaver – bass; Geoff Clapp – drums; Track 10: Marcus Roberts – piano)

In New Orleans where jazz was born, there is a long and impressive line of individuals  that left their imprint both on the city and the music, starting with Buddy Bolden, though Jelly Roll Morton, Joe “King” Oliver, and ultimately Louis Armstrong. However probably the most important family of jazz to come from the Crescent City is the Marsalis clan, headed by the “pater familias” pianist Ellis Marsalis. The four sons which include saxophonist Bradford, trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer/percussionist Jason, all have made their profound mark on the music business. In Heirs Of The Crescent City, Jason has written the soundtrack music for a documentary film Heirs by Sascha Just which takes the listener on a musical journey through New Orleans.

As any visitor to New Orleans will attest, the city is alive with music of all types  and genres from morning through the night. Regardless of the quality, it generally has an infectious spirit. Jason Marsalis has endeavoured to capture this evocation, as the music he has written runs the gamut of emotions and facets emblematic of the Crescent City. The title track “Heirs Of The Crescent City” opens with a repeating piano phrase as Marsalis’ drumming sets the pace for a rollicking jaunt through the number with trumpeter Ashlin Parker leading the way and tenor saxophonist Joe Goldberg not far behind.

As this review is being written, the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans are coming to an end for 2016, and accordingly the Mardi Gras Indians will be cueing up their traditional chant “Indian Red” one final time. Marsalis and the band give this number a spirited reading with trumpeter Parker front and centre. Louis Armstrong used “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South” as his theme song, but here Jason Marsalis re-envisages  the number under the title “The South Is Asleep” and he switches to vibraphone to give the tune an easy swinging lilt. Guest pianist Marcus Roberts does yeoman work in a solo take on “Didn’t Monk Ramble” in which he imagines how Thelonious Monk might have played “Didn’t He Ramble”. On the subsequent track the band gives a full out rendition of the number minus the Monk idiosyncrasies.

An interesting but brief musical tour d’horizon of the Crescent City.

TrackList: Heirs Of The Crescent City; Theodore Shouts; E.B.s Magnolia Meter; Indian Red (Traditional); Mardi Gras At The Carnival Ball; Peace In The Forest; Act 1, Scene 3; The 21st Century Trad Band; The South Is Asleep; Didn’t Monk Ramble (Solo) (Traditional); Didn’t Monk Ramble (Band) (Traditional); Heirs Of The Crescent City (Reprise)

—Pierre Giroux

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