Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, In a World of Mallets (Basin Street Records)

Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, In a World of Mallets, album cover

On a drum kit, the youngest Marsalis often goes several directions (meters) (not Meters) at once. On vibraphone, as he demonstrates here, it’s more a matter of smoothing up many segments into a continuous whole. Over the course of the disc he’ll invoke bells, chimes, the signature tunes of cozy wall clocks grown familiar from decades of old Hollywood, not to mention the Indonesian gamelan and for good measure, near the end, some whistling. The whistling’s charming, actually, and it further contratextualizes the vibes work, as the listener, after a long stretch of Marsalis on many notes at once, gets a refreshing look at his virtuosity with single-note melody.

Against their boss letting it all hang out with such impeccable swing logic, the other three players stay calm and collected, but don’t wallflower themselves. Bassist Will Goble, drummer David Potter and pianist Austin Johnson (the latter a Crescent City resident, for now, studying at the University of New Orleans) delicately pull apart the beat like starfish arms working on an oyster dinner, leaving splendid gaps within which to stumble. Potter’s cymbals sometimes echo the leader’s mallet work; everything spreads just slightly apart, then works enticingly to reinvent itself as a new whole.