The beauty of jazz, or as trombonist/producer Delfeayo Marsalis likes to call it, jass, is articulated on this live recording, Kalamazoo, on chestnuts like “Tin Roof Blues” and “If I Were a Bell” as well the leader’s original, more modern “Secret Love Affair.” When artists of this caliber are involved—Delfeayo; his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis; bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Ralph Peterson—their love of the music comes through in every note of a tune regardless of its era.
The audience in the recital hall of Western Michigan University that evening showed its appreciation with rousing applause as the quartet took the stage. It is fun to hear these enthused folks clapping in time when the group went into what could be considered Delfeayo’s theme song or at least motto: “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Typically, Ellis throws in some musical quotes, wonderfully segueing into a touch of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” Peterson, who has long been connected to this trio of New Orleans musicians through his work with Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and others, lets go for a slam dunk solo to help take this tune out. Meanwhile, Delfeayo impresses with some sensational vibrating flutters.
As always, Delfeayo’s mastery of his instrument is apparent as is his understanding of where and when to utilize the mute, as he does on the group’s appropriately light-hearted version of “Sesame Street Theme.”
Delfeayo reveals a lot of his personality—funny, charming, witty and challenging—during his introduction of several guest students from the university. He ain’t easy on them though his warm, humorous approach is emblematic of how things are done New Orleans.
During the recording of Kalamazoo, this audience heard some fine jazz while learning a bit about what makes this city—and the Marsalis family—tick.