Wynton Marsalis recruited star soloists from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for the first in what is expected to be a series of hot jam sessions that will also feature notable guest artists. The experimental Jazz Jamboree, brought together a varied union of styles, from the stately and poised sound of the Dave Holland Quintet, to the aggressively hard driven tenor of Michael Brecker, and the mellowing, full-bodied tonal warmth of guest Joe Lovanno.
Holland fronted a quintet that has been together for seven years. Chris Potter’s long, lean driving tenor solo for “Claressence” set a comfortable pace as the opener. It was followed by Steve Nelson’s dancing marimba take on “Juggler’s Parade,” that served as a carnival setting for Robin Eubanks’ growling and earthy trombone solo.
Marsalis, Brecker and Lovanno jumped in for “Happy Jamming,” a self-explanatory exercise in trading choruses with clean, bold musical lines that was never show-offy.
Brecker’s group followed with the tenorman displaying his trademark speed and darting imagination. “Arc of the Pendulum,” “Slings and Arrows” and “Half Past Late” all displayed the kind of raw muscular force for which he is known, and none were too interesting. However, when Marsalis stepped in for “Constant Living,” the group revealed a keen sense of melodic unity.
The Marsalis unit was clearly the icing on the cake, taking the stage at nearly 11 o’clock, with loping slow blues that appeared to be just what the aud was hungry for. In fact, Marsalis titled his first two outings, “Blues” and “More Blues,” followed by “Down Home With Homie.” Marsalis played beautifully, with growls here and spirited leaps there, and when he uses the ol’ Bubber Miley hat trick, there is a gritty bow to traditional jazz that is carried forward into a new century, not only with distinction, but with historical knowingness. One can only savor the luxury of the moment.
Ron Westray’s chopping trombone, Victor Goines’ nicely textured tenor sax solos and the rompin’ piano turn by Richard D. Johnson, together dictate and define the heart of the blues. Lovanno stepped forward for a soulful tribute to the late, legendary French saxman Guy Lafite. Marsalis recalled meeting Lafite on a European tour. Lafite was old and ill at the time, but refused to leave a late night session until his tune was played. Then as now, it crowned the jam session.