Wynton and Branford Marsalis are two of the most influential young musicians anywhere. But you might not have heard of Delfeayo Marsalis, unless you're a habitual reader of the fine print in CD booklets.
Until now, Delfeayo Marsalis has been mainly known as a record producer who's overseen about 20 projects by such notables as his brother Branford, pianists Marcus Roberts and Kenny Kirkland and pianist-singer Harry Connick Jr.
But with the release of "Pontius Pilate's Decision," Marsalis' debut on Novus Records, that image is about to change. The album reveals the 26-year-old, who plays the Catalina Bar & Grill Tuesday through July 12, to be a crack trombonist with a nice, round sound and a style that makes stops at several jazz ports.
Marsalis' trombone idol is J.J. Johnson, the ace be-bop innovator who in recent years has returned to active playing after a lengthy career as a composer. "As far as I'm concerned, no trombonist has gotten beyond what J.J. did," said Marsalis, whose first name is pronounced "\o7 Dell\f7 -fee-oh," from his home in New Orleans. "In terms of clarity of ideas, sound, cohesion of a solo, he's the premier trombonist and I don't think he's received the recognition he's deserved."
On "Pontius Pilate"--which features cameos from Wynton and Branford, and pianists Roberts and Kirkland--you won't hear much of Johnson's mark. Instead, the modern, often edgy music--where the pieces, while having biblical titles, refer instead to current events--draws much of its inspiration from Wynton's 1985 Columbia album, "Black Codes (From the Underground)." "The freedom of that album, the way the rhythm section functions, the sound, all that makes it the most comprehensive album by a young artist in the '80s," said Marsalis.
Isn't this just sibling boosterism? "It's unfortunate that the most influential guys of the '80s and '90s happen to be my brothers," Marsalis said, "because it always seems like I'm trying to elevate them simply because we're related. But other people like (trumpeters) Marlon Jordan and Terrence Blanchard and (guitarist) Mark Whitfield come strictly out of that influence too."
At Catalina, Marsalis is making his first club appearance outside of New Orleans, and will play tunes from the new album, some standards and a composition or two by Wynton. The band, a crew of Crescent City-ites, includes his 15-year-old brother, Jason, who on "Pontius Pilate" plays with considerable spark and drive. "Jason's bad," said Marsalis with a laugh. "And he sounds a lot better now than he did on the album. We're going to come out swinging."
Marsalis, who took a degree in record production and engineering from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, said he is just as soon take down his producer's shingle and stick with his horn. "Well," he said, pausing to think, "except maybe for making records with Branford and Marcus."
Critic's Choice: The late pianist Nat Pierce loved music that had a driving swing to it. To pay tribute to him, a gang of like-minded colleagues, among them Pierce's musical partner, drummer Frankie Capp, along with singer Joe Williams, vibist Terry Gibbs, bassist Ray Brown and Supersax will swing their hearts out Wednesday at the Musicians Union Auditorium. Information: (818) 843-3122.