We all have a record like this in our collections. Not necessarily a jazz record, it could be any kind of music that pleases you. But they are long-time friends, there when you really need them, not asking any questions until you’re ready for them, and then giving you exactly what you need every time. Every track speaks to you, reminds you of what’s important, shows you how far away from yourself you’ve gotten.
This is that album in my collection. I love it. I had it on cassette when it first came out, and then the CD not long after, so that means as of the time of this writing I’ve been playing these songs for 17 years. More than half of my life. Yeah, I know it pretty well. It’s seen me through a lot. And when I played it yesterday, it still filled me with that same old feeling it always has.
A jazz purist reading this review might think I’m off my rocker, say that there are better and more important albums than this. Well, I’m not about to go off on a snooty jazz rant about the form and structures here, or about the trumpet and piano work, at least not in a way that’ll sound snobby. This review is my gut reaction to an album that has meant a lot to me for a long time, not a deconstruction. These songs are perfect. Well-conceived, well-ordered, and played amazingly. The combination of Wynton and his Dad, Ellis, is stunning and the sounds of their chemistry will get into your blood and your head and stay there. Each song here is its own part of your life, a little musical time capsule of a time and place.
There are happy, joyful songs, and there are heart-achingly sad songs too. And mixed in are a whole lot of hopeful songs that exude romance in every note. As the title of the album suggests, Marsalis was searching for a definitive answer to love and romance, a way to best describe and capture it. Without question, to me, he succeeded.
I own many Marsalis albums, by Wynton, his brother Branford, and by their Dad. I listen to Wynton the most, though, because I was (and sometimes still am) a trumpet player myself. And this record is my favourite of all of them. It’s wonderful, and it just works.