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JAZZ REVIEW : An Appealing Outing by Marsalis, Friends

October 17, 1994|ZAN STEWART

Since change is constant, why not expect it from Wynton Marsalis?

Instead of interpreting music that was reminiscent of the '30s and '40s, as has been his wont, the acclaimed trumpeter delivered a first-rate program with his septet Saturday at El Camino College that emphasized jazz of the '50s, '60s and even '90s. This refreshing shift contributed to Marsalis' most appealing appearance here in years.

Marsalis, whose stunning technical playing has sometimes been inflicted with emotionally distant dissonance and tiresome corn, worked instead with a new, delightful tunefulness and warmth. His lines were composed of carefully chosen notes that caressed, rather than assaulted the ears.

The splendid repertoire, which was deftly orchestrated by the leader, ranged from Thelonious Monk's arduous "Four In One"--played with zeal--to Marsalis' bubbly "Buggy Ride" and his moody "Black Codes From the Underground."

On "Buggy Ride," Marsalis' solo was filled with darting-here-then-there, be-bop bent ideas. He was soft and understated on "Black Codes," an edgy, almost harsh work when first released in 1985 that this time had an alluring smoothness. "You Don't Know What Love Is" found Marsalis offering risky, emotional ideas, though he took fewer chances on "My Ideal," which was a bit stiff.

Marsalis' band was exemplary. Drummer Herlin Riley, bassist Ben Wolfe and pianist Eric Reed underpinned the entire concert with thoughtful support, and the front line of Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Victor Goines (tenor sax, clarinet) and Wes Anderson (alto sax) played with verve.

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