There are certain specific artists who are immediately synonymous with a particular location. You think of Bruce Springsteen, you immediately think of New Jersey, and of the venerable, Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ; The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Television and Blondie should bring to mind the grittiness of the old, Lower East Side and of CBGB’s; Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Mudhoney should bring to mind 1980s and 1990s Seattle, WA; and as soon as you think of the venerable Marsalis clan, you should immediately think of New Orleans. (Of course, there are countless others but you get my general point, here.)
Certainly, if you know anything about anything about jazz — hell, about music over the past 50-60 years or so — you know that the Marsalis family have made a tremendous impact on jazz and on music in general. Patriarch, Ellis Marsalis is a legendary pianist and educator with a still ongoing weekly gig in New Orleans; Branford Marsalis is a world-renowned saxophonist (primarily alto and soprano sax) who has not only played alongside Sting, but has also long been known as a forward-thinking and brash giant of contemporary and highly experimental jazz with his quartet; Wynton Marsalis has made a name for himself for his attempts at preserving and honoring jazz’s tremendous history here in New York; Delfeayo Marsalis is a renowned trumpeter; and the youngest of the clan, Jason Marsalis has toured with Bela Fleck and pianist Marcus Roberts, and has developed a reputation as a world class vibraphonist.
With the release of Jason Marsalis’s third album In a World of Mallets the youngest of the Marsalis clan returned to his role as composer and bandleader — and it served as the debut of the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, featuring Will Goble (bass), Austin Johnson (piano) and David Potter (drums). And what made that album interesting was that the album’s material was comprised of incredibly complex but playfully witty compositions which managed to twist, turn, dart, flit about and play with pauses, time signature changes and key changes in ways that put a modern twist on classic jazz.
Basin Street Records will be releasing the second Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet album, The 21st Century Trad Band on October 27, and the album’s second single “Ratio Man” reveals Marsalis to be a rather inventive and witty composer. The material owes a great debt to the bop era – in particular, it reminds me of the late and very great Horace Silver, as it shares the same sense of mischievous melody while retaining Marsalis’s sensibility – the song manages to twist and turn into itself, at times seeming playfully self-referential while swinging with a sweet, amiable charm.