Story and interview by J Hunter
I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime, but on Saturday (September 8) at the Port of Albany’s Riverfront Jazz Festival, Greater Nippertown will complete its first-ever “Marsalis Slam” when trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis joins another great Riverfront lineup on the Corning Preserve.
Over the last eight months, we’ve seen (in order of appearance) the Branford Marsalis Quartet, the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet and Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra hit us with their respective takes on the music introduced to them by their father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. While Delfeayo may have the shortest discography of the four brothers, the mastery he displays on his chosen instrument puts him at the top of the list of trombonists playing today; we saw that in 2006, when Marsalis’ sextet set fire to Shepard Park during Lake George Jazz Weekend’s first evening show.
Along with a great list of accomplishments as a New Orleans educator, Marsalis also served up one of my Top 10 Jazz CDs of 2011: “Sweet Thunder,” a re-boot of Duke Ellington’s expansive tribute to the iconic playwright William Shakespeare. While Delfeayo’s take shows proper respect for the original compositions, Marsalis’ stripped-out arrangements combine with a stellar octet (featuring Branford and Jason) to breathe sparkling new life into one of Ellington’s sensational late-career suites.
I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Delfeayo Marsalis agreed to speak with me about “Sweet Thunder” (and other subjects):