Found the pickle and onion. Where's the beef?
Eric C. Sedensky | Madison, AL, US | 05/31/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Wynton Marsalis is one of those guys I've heard of and known about for years, and he's been gradually creeping farther into the limelight helped by full page ads in the Wall Street Journal and his admirable efforts with Jazz at Lincoln Center. And while my music tastes were outside the fringes of classical and jazz music, Wynton was basically the most famous musician in the world who I could completely and easily ignore. But now that jazz is my passion and classical is my sidelight, I finally decided it was time to pay attention to Marsalis (and to some extent, his kin as well). And, as lukewarm as three stars might seem (I would have given another half to this work if I could have, but ultimately decided it was on the short side between 3 and 4), I think this recording is actually pretty darn good. There's some obvious talent (yeah, no kidding) at work here, and to those who say Marsalis does not innovate, I found plenty of original licks and modal movements to disagree. Likewise, I found enough originality here that I couldn't really liken it to anything else I've been listening to lately. (And I've been listening to a lot of jazz lately - just have a look at my reviews.) I think, however, that this is really where some of the difficulty in Wynton's music lies. He doesn't sound particularly like anybody, not even, if you will, himself. He and his band sort of trudge through a song because, "that's the way to go", and you never really feel like he pulled out his machete and cut out a new path. There are bursts of sound and melody and harmony that are certainly dynamic and in their own way exciting, but I didn't find anything to be all that memorable. (I couldn't hum one of his tunes now if I tried.) That said, I will add that the songs are intricate and full enough to make this recording vaguely satisfying, and I sense I should want to explore more. I like Wynton's bent toward the "classic" jazz sound, as well as I also like the fact that he doesn't lean on the crutch of technology to make music. Some of the piano work is quite sharp, and I always enjoy jazz trumpet, my first musical love. The other instruments are bright and true allowing the musicians to drive the sound and the song instead of the other way around. As a whole, the CD has a "purity" that would be all the more enjoyable if it didn't dissolve into the background so easily. I spent several days playing and replaying this recording over a period of about a week, making sure my first couple of impressions were accurate. They were, and that is them. Take it if you're a Marsalis fan or jazz fanatic or energetic music collector, leave it if you are none of the above."