Delfeayo Marsalis – The Last Southern Gentlemen [TrackList follows] – Troubadour Jass TJR081814, 70:47 ****½:
(Delfeayo Marsalis – trombone; Ellis Marsalis – piano; John Clayton – bass; Marvin “Smitty” Smith – drums. Special guest- Herlin Riley on “Sesame Street”)
The Marsalis clan grew up in New Orleans soaking up the jazz tradition under the tutelage of their father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. Each has blossomed into a master of their own instrument. The two oldest, Wynton and Branford, need no introduction to the jazz community. The youngest two brothers, Jason and Delfeayo are just a step behind in recognition. Jason plays both drums and the vibes. Delfeayo is a brilliant trombonist, with a warm, resonant burnished tone. He brings to mind the iconic J.J. Johnson, and that is an extreme compliment as Johnson stood out for the ease and warmth of his fluid lines.
Delfeayo’s latest CD brings father and son together for their first complete album together. Putting a bow around their meeting are the inclusion of John Clayton and Marvin “Smitty” Smith to round out the rhythm section. Each is a perfect choice to help interpret a CD of mostly ballad standards.
The swinging yet silky smooth romantic presentation of recognized ballads could have been pedestrian in the wrong hands. Certainly not here, as Ellis provides an anchor for Delfeayo to explore the well known melodies. Included in the song list are a few surprises that keep the listener on their toes. Imagine the theme for “Sesame Street” with a New Orleans backbeat, and funky tambourine and bass drum accompaniment by guest Herlin Riley.
Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis contribute “The Secret Love Affair” and “The Man With Two Left Feet.” The former has a bongo beat laid down by Smitty over which Delfeayo provides a muted easy infectious swing, while the later has a waltz beat punctuated by the addition of a wide variety of drum kit percussion by Smith.
Ellis has the class and elegance of Hank Jones as he uses space and an ease of swing expression that makes him a natural choice for interpreting such classics as “My Romance,” “I’m Confessin,” “But Beautiful” and “Autumn Leaves.” “If I Were a Bell” is done as a trio, and father and son commiserate on “I Cover the Waterfront.”
A special treat is the bowed bass solo by John Clayton on “My Romance” followed by a exquisite exploration of the theme by Delfeayo. You will never hear a more touching reading of this standard.
Delfeayo states that the aim of the recording was to “communicate a feeling of graciousness and sincerity, relaxation and (Southern) gentility.” The Last Southern Gentlemen provides these attributes and more. It certainly possesses an enchantment that will remain with the listener long after the last note of the thirteen tracks is concluded.
TrackList: The Secret Love Affair, Autumn Leaves, She’s Funny That Way, Sesame Street, I’m Confessin’, But Beautiful, Speak Low, Nancy, The Man With Two Left Feet, That Old Feeling, My Romance, If I Were a Bell, I Cover the Waterfront