Live Jazz: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl

By Tony Gieske

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra nestled under the royal purple proscenium of the Hollywood Bowl as if the two were meant for each other. And the band rang with delight like wedding bells.

The bandleader, Wynton Marsalis, stood up occasionally at his post in the trumpet section to announce a number, all of which were then played with unparalleled musicianship.  But otherwise, Marsalis remained seated, taking his turn there as a soloist, including some great growl trumpet.

Of course, no maestro would want to leave tacit the other three trumpeters, Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup and Kenny Rampton, fellow Parnassians all.  Rampton started out with Ray Charles. Printup has recorded as a leader and with Betty Carter, Dianne Reeves and Madeline Peyroux. Kisor has played in the Mingus Big Band and the Gil Evans Orchestra.

The three trombonists, the five saxophonists and the three-man rhythm section were similarly well credentialed.

The most sox-knocking-off output the gentlemen of the ensemble came up with was called “Courthouse Bump,” and it was written by Jelly Roll Morton. Here the big band rocked and rolled through a New Orleans-drenched cavalcade that included several different tempos and rhythm patterns.  Marsalis did his growl thing on this one, and there were a bunch of great solos, the most memorable of which was by the English-born Elliot Mason, who uttered arrestingly innovative passages, one after another, in a memorable trombone outing.

What a night!

Among the many fruitful moments was the one Ted Nash and Victor Goines contributed: A soprano saxophone and flute duet on a pretty little piece in three-quarter time.

A tribute to the late James Moody occupied the last half of the program,  led by guest tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and illustrated by candid Moody snapshots projected on the Bowl’s junior giant TV screens.  The tribute began with Lovano recreating a version of Moody’s first recorded solo, on Dizzy Gillespie’s great big band blues “Emanon,” at the age of 21.

Here the Lincoln Center guys outdid the old Gillespie trumpet section — it had Quincy Jones in it — in the superspeed four-man breaks of the Gil Fuller chart. Tonight, all four sounded as one.  And the Marsalis band as a whole was a bit more together than Dizzy’s 1940s group, which nevertheless floored me as a kid when I heard it at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C.

Lovano handled the solo recreation with his customary skill and spirit.  The classic “Moody’s Mood for Love” was a great success, complete with the jocular falsetto chorus from a member of the trombone section.

And it would be hard to find a jazz number more joyously and accurately recreated than the Lincoln Center band’s closing version of Dizzy’s immortal speedster  “Things to Come.”  ‎

I left feeling that they’ve arrived.

Photos by Tony Gieske.

One thought on “Live Jazz: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl

  1. Yeah, I was there and agree.

    I’m no expert, but I kinda think this band is more about the sum of the parts than the soloists—more in the spirit, I think, of the classic swing bands. Back in the day when people talked about bands as entities. That Dizzy closer was a knock out, too. And the Jelly Roll number is something you just don’t hear anywhere else.

    I was surprised by Masakela’s set–I didn’t realize he had a South African band with him and they’d get so deep into those Soweto rhythms (the name of which I can’t pronounce)…Heckman knows it I’m sure. But I love that stuff. He did some beautiful extended stuff on his flugelhorn too. A good night all over.

    We sat in nice seats drinking a three dollar sixer from Trader Joes and eating leftovers, which only added to the pleasure. Though it probably won’t get us invited to any rich people parties.



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