Marsalis Family ‘Music Redeems’ (Marsalis/Universal) 3/5

Conceived of in order to support the creation of a specialist music centre for jazz musicians in New Orleans within the New Orleans habitat musicians village in the wake of hurricane Katrina, this benefit concert brought together the entire Marsalis family to share an evening’s entertainment at the JFK Center in Washington D.C. in June 2009. Special guests included Harry Connick Jr. on piano and longtime Wynton Marsalis drummer Herlin Riley. Proceedings vary between some classic jazz interpretations in duet, quintet and septet formations, the odd slice of poetry and build up to a fitting finale with some traditional New Orleans musical fare. Perhaps the biggest musical surprise of the evening is the inclusion of vibes played very ably by Jason Marsalis, who is better known as a drummer. On the excellent James Black composition ‘Monkey puzzle’ tenor and vibes combine well on a moody rendition and it is a pity that the vibes were used for this number only, so convincing is Jason’s performance. Branford Marsalis impresses with a warm tenor solo on ‘Teo’ while father Ellis has the opportunity to take an extended piano solo here. An upbeat ‘Donna Lee’ features Wynton on muted harmon on a quintet number. Jason returns in his more conventional role as a drummer and delivers some typically New Orleans-style roll licks on ‘At the house, in da pocket’ while the horn phrasing on this piece sounds as if it is in the distinctly Jazz Messengers territory. Audience handclapping is in evidence on the call and response number ‘The second line’ which reinforces the New Orleans ambience and has Wynton sounding out on trumpet. Both Ellis and Connick Jr. play along together on ‘After’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’. All in all a solid live performance for the worthiest of causes.

Tim Stenhouse