I’m a big fan of Wynton Marsalis and his music. His songs soar, and they are so technically perfect that it’s almost not fair to the rest of us. OK, forget the almost. The man is a living legend, proof that a lifetime of hard work and dedication pays off. Mix in an unshakable grace and calm, and oh yeah, don’t forget a little something called an otherwordly natural talent as well, for good measure. The man’s unstoppable.
The music from his illustrious career is all over the map, too, from the American Songbook standards to trumpet concertos, from Baroque to Basin Street. He’s done solo work, all manner and sizes of groups, and is musical director of the Jazz At The Lincoln Center Orchestra. He equally loves Haydn and Ellington, and is a bandleader in the style of Art Blakey (as he was once his pupil). He won a Pulitzer Prize for his Blood On The Fields masterpiece (the first time it’s ever been awarded for a jazz recording!), and more Grammys than others can dream of in their wildest wet dreams. He’s like the Master Of The Horn. And that tone! So sweet! Mmmmmm-good!
Better yet (for fans like me), he seems to toss off albums in no time flat. Since beginning his recording career he’s released a ton of them (60-ish or more by now, insane for someone who’s been recording for less than 30 years) and they’re all excellent. I get the sense that he and his band can walk into a studio and, a week later, walk out having laid down nothing but tight, stellar tracks, all perfect for the album. Damn. And all of this on top of relentless touring, documentaries, and TV shows, and stops at schools all over the country to get the kids fired up about music (for which he deserves the highest praise). Whew!
So. This particular movie soundtrack is another favourite of mine. I saw the movie once, way back closer to the time it was released (over 15 years ago), and it was definitely different. Look at the cast – Keanu Reeves, Barbara Hershey and Peter Falk? Who dreamed that one up? Odd, yes, and interesting. But it’s this collection of songs that remains my enduring memory of the experience. This is happy music, New Orleans party music, the kind of stuff that would definitely make Baloo the bear dance, tilt his head back and shake his shoulders with joy.
Toss in some outstanding vocal tracks from Johnny Adams and Shirley Horn, and some 30’s radio show organ music (you’d have to see the film to know why), and this is an eclectic, brilliant and highly listenable album. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve played this CD over the years, but it’s a ton. It’s like an old friend, in that it understands when no one else seems to want to, knows when it can get away with cajoling me, and ultimately lifts me up whether I needed it or not.
If you’re a jazz-head, or a music snob, and you want better critiques of this man’s works, go read Stanley Crouch. In these pages I can only respond viscerally to Marsalis’ music, and my gut tells me this record (and all his others too) are unquestionably brilliant.
I hope Wynton Marsalis keeps making records for another million years. At least. And if they’re all as good as this one, or any of his others (you’re really spoiled for choice, folks, it’s true) the entire world will be all the better for it. Right on.
01 Big Trouble In The Easy (Pedro Pops Up)
02 Kings Of The Garden District
03 Crescent City Crawl (On The St. Charles Streetcar Line)
04 Alligator Tail Drag (Mr. Alligator – Why You So Mean?)
05 May Be Fact Or Fiction (v. Johnny Adams)
06 Social Soft Shoe (Party At Olga’s)
07 Mama Leona (You Know You Not Spanish!)
08 I Can’t Get Started (v. Shirley Horn)
09 The Grand Marshall (Martin’s Big Break)
10 The Ways Of Love (Julia And Martin) (v. Shirley Horn)
11 On The Eve Of Entry
12 Don’t Run From Fun (Julia’s Decision)
13 Albanians (Why Us?)
14 Sunsettin’ On The Bayou (Toonin’ Tonight):
1. Dusk On The Delta
2. yas, yaz, yaz, all-night Jass
3. Pre-morning Masquerade At The Café Du Monde
15 The Ways Of Love
16 Double Rondo On The River