While the evening’s headline banner of “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue — A Birthday Tribute to Louis Armstrong” was a tad misleading, trumpeter Marcus Printup and some fine cats moonlighting from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra delivered a set of strong and assertive playing. Printup was the dominant voice throughout, playing with clean, resolute intensity in a manner that’s always refreshingly direct and authoritative.
Assembled to play a round of Printup originals and celebrate the release of his new Nagel Hayer CD, “The New Boogaloo,” Printup sailed on the swing blues “Printupian Prance,” displayed lyrical qualities on “The Inception” and the aptly titled “Soul Waltz” became a wondrous journey into colorful gospel roots. Trombonist Wycliff Gordon shared the front line, and his playing was often vigorously rich, infectious and appealing.
The bass of Vicente Archer and Donald Edwards on drums served the frontmen well, providing a bold rhythmic foundation. But the solos of Walter Blanding, who developed his own hard sound and displayed disciplined drive on tenor sax, solo fell short in nuance and variety.
Pianist Eric Lewis saved everything for the driving tempo of the closer, “Bullet Train,” a locomotive fast blues filled with his racing arpeggios. Most of his solos during the set were none too interesting as he appeared to save it all for the finale. It cooked big time — barbecue at last!