1. Introducing...the Marsalis Family
2. Donna Lee
3. Wynton and Branford Speak
4. Monkey Puzzle
7. Sweet Georgia Brown
8. Harry Speaks
10. The Man and the Ocean
11. At the House, In Da Pocket
12. The 2nd Line
Ellis Marsalis Jr. - Piano
Branford Marsalis - Saxophones
Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet
Delfeayo Marsalis - Trombone
Jason Marsalis - Drums, vibes, whistling
Ellis Marsalis III - Spoken word (track 10)
Harry Connick Jr. - Piano (tracks 7, 9, 11)
Eric Revis - Bass
Herlin Riley - Drums, Percussion (tracks 2, 4, 11, 12)
What is the most famous jazz family around today? You would be hard put to beat the assemblage of the Marsalis clan on this CD. They got together in June 2009 for this concert to benefit the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans. They were also celebrating Ellis, the paterfamilias of this remarkable family. Five of his sons were present: Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason, and Ellis Marsalis III. Their mother Dolores gets a well-deserved mention in the sleeve-note and - during the concert - from guest artist Harry Connick Jr., who claims (probably with tongue in cheek) that the mother was the only person who greeted him warmly when, as a child, he arrived at the Marsalis residence for piano lessons.
After a brief introduction, the music begins with a top-speed Donna Lee featuring Jason Marsalis whistling the theme and even whistling a solo after a fluid solo from Wynton. Jason displays further versatility in the waltz Monkey Puzzle where he plays the vibes with assurance. Branford and Ellis also contribute musicianly solos.
Next come two of Ellis's own compositions. He plays After as a reflective piano solo. Syndrome brings in the rest of the musical Marsalises, with strong supportive bass from Eric Revis. Wynton's solo is typically clear and adventurous, and I think Ellis's piano solo quotes Stravinsky.
Harry Connick Jr. enters to do a piano duet with Ellis on Sweet Georgia Brown. This is one of the most hackneyed jazz standards but the pianists make it fresh by dressing it in new clothes. After some humorous and heartfelt reminiscences, Harry joins the rest of the musicians for Teo, a Thelonious Monk tune which here sounds uncoordinated because the players can't seem to agree on the beat.
The Man and the Ocean is a verse tribute to his father, written and spoken by Ellis Marsalis III. The concert ends with two bluesy numbers evoking the spirit of New Orleans. At the House, In Da Pocket intriguingly has the front-line instrumentalists supplying interlocking fragments of invention. They eventually come together in traditional collective improvisation before Ellis and Harry Connick take off in a jovial piano outing. This leads into a nice bass and drums duet.
Prolonged applause calls forth an encore: The 2nd Line, very much in the style of New Orleans marching bands. One suspects that some of the musicians marched around the audience during this number, leaving the rhythm section to play a repetitive vamp for a while. You can hear where Rock Around the Clock came from!
The recording quality is first-rate throughout and this is an album I can wholeheartedly recommend, especially as proceeds from its sale go to the worthy cause of the Music Center in New Orleans. Yes, music redeems - and the process can be fun.