The ongoing saga of the jazz clan Marsalis reached another milestone this week with the release of 21-year-old Jason Marsalis' debut recording. But unlike his distinguished brothers Branford, Wynton and Delfeayo, the drummer won't be taking his bow as a leader on a major label.
Instead, Jason's ambitious "The Year of the Drummer" is being released on start-up New Orleans-based label Basin Street Records. Both trumpeter Wynton and saxophonist Branford broke on the scene with Columbia Records. Trombonist Delfeayo's first release was issued by RCA Novus.
Jason's first effort, though coming from a label still little known outside New Orleans, is no less auspicious than those of his brothers. The disc's 11 original pieces interweave Crescent City traditions with groove and post-bop styles.
Marsalis, who just this week moved out of the family home into his own apartment, says he doesn't feel any envy toward his brothers and their major label releases.
"I was only 4 or 5 when [Branford and Wynton] first came on the scene. I'm just starting to get my name out there now. So, no, I don't feel any weight from having the Marsalis name. I have my own thing to do and I'm glad I'm doing it on a local label."
The younger Marsalis is no stranger to U.S. jazz audiences at large. He began recording with his distinguished father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, for Columbia when only 14 and plays a major role on his father's current release, "Twelve's It." He currently tours with pianist Marcus Roberts (they'll be at New York's hallowed Village Vanguard Nov. 17-22) and has made infrequent appearances with brother Branford's trio.
But his own direction is inextricably linked to his hometown. Marsalis has become a solid presence in the city's nightspots and festivals, just finishing a seven-year run with his father at the club Snug Harbor, marching in parades with Brazilian band Casa Samba and powering recently defunct New Orleans electric band Neslort at the Funky Butt Club, where his quintet also plays.
But his most visible gig in the Crescent City is with Los Hombres Caliente, an intriguing collaboration between Marsalis, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and New Orleans-based percussionist Bill Summers, a member of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. The group's eponymous release earlier this year, Basin Street's second, is a gumbo of New Orleans rhythms seasoned with Cuban, African and others. "Los Hombres is more oriented toward dance than my band," Marsalis says. "In Los Hombres, we explore a lot of Latin rhythms. In my band, we explore the New Orleans groove, the traditional New Orleans forms, but with a lot more modern jazz elements."
Distribution of Basin Street Records should reach Los Angeles later this month, according to Basin Street President Mark Samuels. For more information: http://www.basinstreetrecords.com.
Still Haunting: Congratulations to Miles Davis are in order this Halloween season. Davis' 1959 recording "Kind of Blue" was voted onto The Times' recent Readers' Top 100 Poll. Only one other album from the '50s, Elvis Presley's "Sun Sessions," made the list. Can you hear us, Miles?
Jazz Family: Quincy Jones, speaking to the more than 800 attendees of the Los Angeles Jazz Society's annual Tribute Awards Dinner and Benefit Concert at the Biltmore Bowl last Sunday, claimed that as a young trumpet player he stood on the shoulders of people like his old friend, mentor and the event's Lifetime Achievement awardee, saxophonist James Moody.
Tribute honoree Horace Silver, on receiving his award from guitarist and UCLA Jazz Studies program director Kenny Burrell, noted that he had been blessed with long stints at select record labels, something, Silver noted, that is becoming increasingly more rare and difficult. The 70-year-old composer-pianist closed the evening playing his trademark "Song for My Father" with an ensemble that included drummer Billy Higgins, saxophonist Teddy Edwards and others.
Release Dates: If you missed Chick Corea's appearance at Catalina Bar & Grill last week with his acoustic band Origin, don't despair. On Nov. 17, Corea's Stretch Records will release a six-CD document of the group's appearance last December at New York's Village Vanguard. . . . The release of the eight-CD set "John Coltrane: The Classic Quartet--Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings" has been delayed two weeks. It's now set for Nov. 17. . . . "The Complete Miles Davis Bitches Brew Sessions" with never-released material from the landmark 1969 sessions hits the stores Nov. 24.
Sunday Music: One of the rare area venues for avant-garde, free improvisation and otherwise jazz-influenced music outside the mainstream is the Sunday Evening Concerts series presented by Open Gate at the Pasadena Shakespeare Company Theatre. The Gate opens its second year of concerts this Sunday with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich's trio with bassist Anders Swanson and the five-piece And Now Ensemble. Information: (626) 795-4989.
Free Jazz: Veteran trumpeter Clora Bryant talks about the Central Avenue jazz scene at Borders Books, 2110 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach; Saturday, 4 p.m. Saxophonist Michael Session leads his quartet at Borders that same night at 8. (562) 799-0486. . . . Pianist Larry Karush's quintet plays the USC Health Sciences Campus, Upper Quad, 1969 Zonal Ave.; today, noon. (213) 740-7111.