Ellis Marsalis plays Jazz Fest on Saturday, May 3—Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent, 2:30 p.m..
Drive, lightning speed and boogie aren’t exactly terms generally associated with the style of pianist Ellis Marsalis. He’s more often thought of as an elegant player who executes each note with consideration and likes to swing. On the Second Occasion, a recently released album that was recorded in 2003, listeners have the opportunity to enjoy the Marsalis they might expect and experience the lesser-known side of this important artist.
He’s got his ace rhythm section with him on this adventure—the beautifully articulate Bill Huntington, Marsalis’ longtime bassist who moved following Katrina, and his talented son, drummer Jason Marsalis. The rapid-fire pace of the disc’s only original, Marsalis’ “Things You Never Were,” is no challenge for this tight-knit trio—they fly.
The album’s most surprising—and somewhat amusing—tune is the group’s interpretation of “On Broadway.” Yes, the song the Drifters made famous in 1963. It’s got a dance beat that moves from a little Latin groove to a boogie. Jason serves up a most unusual drum solo that is almost reminiscent of a marching-band drum cadence. On the familiar chorus, Marsalis manages to play a duet with himself and after a pause the song flows into a warm ballad.
Of course, Marsalis offers some moments of beauty as heard on the gentle sway of “Delilah” that are enriched by the album’s superior sound quality. On the Second Occasion continues and adds to Marsalis’ musical legacy.