March 2007

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
March 14, 2007 Massey Hall Toronto
The Jazz Ambassador
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Roger Humbert
The songs that we love, that was the program for the evening. As the orchestra took to the stage and positioned themselves in the bandstand to the applause of a near to capacity audience, Wynton Marsalis, at the back of the orchestra stand, in the far left position of the trumpet section, lifted a microphone and spoke of the honour of being in Massey Hall. A warm, laid back, graceful and humorous ambassador of jazz, he welcomed the audience: “Our program tonight is The Songs That We Love, hopefully after we play them, you’ll still love them,” he said.

The opening melody of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” was introduced by Sherman Irby on alto saxophone, a smooth tone, a relaxing tempo, the weight of the world lifted from the theatre and a vibe of serenity fell from the house sound system. The orchestra, made their presence felt a poco, a poco (little by little), as the tune progressed. The band would play all the standards ever written, or so it seemed, as the hits just kept on coming. “Fascinating Rhythm” was up next, followed by “Blue Skies” an Irving Berlin song arranged by Fletcher Henderson and made famous by Benny Goodman. The tune was swinging and Marcus Printup's trumpet break was inspired — superb tone with phrasing that communicated on so many levels and a feel that made you want to shout out loud, with many in the audience hollering in delight.

The classic “Sweet Georgia Brown” was performed to the delight of the audience, and an interesting version of “My Funny Valentine” the Gerry Mulligan arrangement that found its voice in the fine baritone saxophone playing of Joe Temperly. A grand, mellow tone in fine tribute to the great Gerry Mulligan by the great Joe Temperly. Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia” with drums leading, piano joining, followed by the saxophone section and then the trombone section and finally the trumpets. Marcus Printup would take the lead, literally smoking through a thirty-two bar break of awesome dynamics, trumpet trickery and sleight of hand, as he proceeded to produce sounds that most trumpeters can only dream of.

“Tea For Two”, was a swinging arrangement with clarinet as the featured instrument, with a cute trumpet section of choreographed movements as the group would muffle their horns with plastic party hats in synchronized rhythmic motion. Wynton Marsalis managed to take the lead and played a beautiful trumpet break with a warm, glorious tone that sounded un-characteristically gravelly — a sit up and take notice break.

The Orchestra finished the first set with an Oliver Nelson arrangement of “Down By The Riverside”. The bass player, Carlos Henriquez, drove the rhythm section with passion, creating a solid foundation and leading to another Marcus Printup trumpet break with the rest of the orchestra providing accompaniment in the form of hand claps, a mix of Flamenco Palmas and New Orleans soul. The set would finish with a huge brass sound fading to a satisfied audience enraptured with Mr. Marsalis as he played the perfect jazz ambassador to his orchestra of exceptional statesmen.

The second set began with “Autumn Leaves” followed by a Benny Carter's arrangement of “All Of Me” featuring the saxophone section with a sound full, soft and smooth as velvet. The song also had a nice call and response between pianist Dan Nimmer and trombonist Chris Crenshaw that created spur-of-the-moment applause.

Marcus Printup led a Wycliffe Gordon’s arrangement of “St. Louis Blues” with another fine display of trumpet magic. A fine clarinet break would follow with hypnotic lines. The drumming was in a Latin style with cymbals played near the bell and tom toms sounding like timbales. The bass player Henriquez was like a Matador, daring the song, pushing the rhythm forward. A trombone break by Vincent Gardener was also very inspiring, full of dynamics and a refreshing tone.

Somewhat awkwardly, Ryan Kisor disengaged himself from the bandstand and made his way to the front of the stage and a single microphone mounted on a stand. To an introduction by Wynton Marsalis, he would begin to perform the lead trumpet on “I Can’t Get Started” two muted trumpets would join in accompaniment. Mr. Kisor played in a very mellow style, producing an enchanting tone that he maintained through rapid-fire runs and dynamics ranging from whisper to scream.

One of the highlight tunes of the evening, was a Ted Nash arrangement of John Coltrane’s arrangement of “My Favourite Things” with five saxophone players making an incredible impression. To start, all five members of the reed section playing soprano saxophone. The pianist would play big heavy sounding chords; the bassist laid down solid driving bass lines. The drummer, Ali Jackson , subdued, laying back — as the song developed, Jackson would build in power and take on the role of an Elvin Jones stylist. Sherman Irby would take the first saxophone solo, followed by Walter Blanding, then Joe Temperly, Victor Goines and last Ted Nash.

The concert would finish off with “What Is This Thing Called Love” and the final song “Rhapsody In Blue” that featured some rousing muted trumpet playing. The audience was very appreciative of the musicians, providing a standing ovation and building in applause to shake the foundation of the hall, or at least the balcony where I was standing.

The band slowly re-appeared on stage, ready to play an encore. The rhythm section took their places in the centre stage area and were surrounded by the orchestra. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra would flow through one more tune, with each member taking an improvised break starting with Wynton Marsalis and progressing through the ranks. Upon completing the final solo, the band would play through one more verse and exit stage left while the rhythm section continued to play. The trio would play on, even as the house lights came up. The audience started to depart, the band played the bridge and built to the finale.

A wonderful way to end the show.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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