Wynton Marsalis always holds a special place in my heart. Not only did my father take my brother and I to see him early in his career, but we also got the opportunity to get our picture taken with him, before he became the megastar he is today--or as megastar as a jazz musician can be in this country in 2013.
This Live At Blues Alley record from my dad's collection is special to me for many reasons:
1) It was recorded in 1986 at Blues Alley, and it was released in 1988. In 1986, my family was living in Newtown, CT, and we had to travel to NY to hear Wynton play. By the time he released this album in 1988, we were living in the Washington DC area, and we actually saw Wynton play several times in the infamous Blues Alley. (of course now Wynton acts like he's too good for Blues Alley, and he only performs at the Kennedy Center. )
2) Wynton's band consisted of Marcus Roberts on piano, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums and Robert Leslie Hurst III on Bass. Marcus Roberts played with Wynton for several years before going solo, and he currently juggles his pianist career with being a teacher of music at Florida State University. Jeff "Tain" Watts played with Wynton, then left to play with Branford Marsalis, while peppering in some solo albums. Robert Hurst played with Wynton, then left to play with Branford Marsalis' band on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in the 90s, before pursuing his solo career as well. Wynton didn't play with this quartet very often, so this album is something to be cherished
3) One of my favorite jazz standards is Cherokee, and Wynton covers this on this album. Cherokee was written in 1938 by Ray Noble, but the version I'm most familiar with is by another trumpet player, Clifford Brown (whose album I wrote about last month).
4) The foreword in this album was written by controversial jazz critic, Stanley Crouch, who is considers Marsalis a good friend of his. Crouch has often been staunch critic of rap music and Miles Davis' decision to play smooth jazz in the 80s, but when he can be a dynamic critic when he wants to be--and in his lengthy foreword inside this album--Crouch was indeed eloquent. Here's one of my favorite quotes from the lines notes:
Marsalis demotes the avant-garde trumpeters one and all, playing with such force and bold fluidity that one wonders what the course of jazz would have been had he arrived twenty years earlier.
And now, here is Wynton playing "Cherokee":