My column in City Arts – New York’s Review of Culture, focuses on America’s deep, dark musical strain as it is today in a blues-challenged city. It doesn’t mention that Wynton Marsalis is the world’s greatest blues trumpeter, as he proved last night playing “bread and butter” from the Count Basie songbook with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra, a show repeated tonight (2/12) and Saturday.
There may not be much competition for that post (outside of New Orleans; I haven’t heard Kermit Ruffins in quite a while) but even if there were, Marsalis’s boundless flow of vocal-like ideas enspirited a concert meant to celebrate two eras of the Basie orchestra: the Old Testament (1935-1946) and New Testament (1952 – 1984). Musical director for this concert was trombonist Vincent Gardner, who chose mostly lesser-known pieces of Basie’s blues-drenched repertoire, ranging from Buck Clayton’s fast and furious “Seventh Avenue Express” to the sarcastic “Your Red Wagon” (originally a feature for Jimmy Rushing, here sung by guest vocalist Gregory Porter, who also delivered the Joe Turner/Joe Williams/B.B. King-identified “Everyday I Have the Blues“) to Neal Hefti’s non-somnambulant “Sleepwalker’s Serenade.”