Ellis Marsalis might best be characterized as half a household name. Thursday evening, sharing the bill with Wynton Marsalis before a full house atRoyce Hall, UCLA, he offered clear evidence of the talent that has been reflected in his more celebrated sons.
Marsalis pere is a pianist steeped in several traditions. As one might expect of a musician who devotes much of his time to teaching, he seemed thoroughly in touch with a variety of idioms, from the bebop of his opener, Bud Powell's "Hallucinations" to the swing-era style and even-keel rhythms he applied to "I Cover the Waterfront." Even more engaging was the harmonic imagination he brought to "Lush Life," a complex song in its original form rendered even more subtly intricate in his treatment.
Marsalis the composer was represented in "Homecoming," a slow and seductively melodic work. Later in the set he was joined by Wynton for the only father-and-son appearance of the evening, aptly dedicated to their hometown as they sustained a quietly persuasive mood in Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans."
For his two closing numbers, "Love for Sale" and "Moment's Notice," the senior Marsalis borrowed his son's bassist and drummer, Bob Hurst and Jeff Watts, rounding out a well-planned and executed set.