Delfeayo Marsalis and his quintet are kicking off a national tour this weekend with a concert at The Seasons. Realizing that I was going to hear Marsalis brother number three in person for the first time, I listened to his new CD, Minions Dominion, which has come in for considerable attention. From the relatively little I had heard of him, I was predisposed to the warmth and humor of his trombone playing, as I made plain in a 2003 Jazz Times review of a CD he made with his father Ellis and brothers Wynton, Branford and Jason.
Delfeayo, boisterous and exceedingly tromboney, is featured to great effect on Tyree Glenn’s “Sultry Serenade,” aka “How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me?” He delights in finding humorous alternate notes to use in “running out of key,” as the preboppers used to say.
Marsalis makes further wry uses of diminished scales in “Brer Rabbit,” the jaunty blues that opens the new album. He applies them here and there throughout the CD. His seriousness as a player and a composer is also apparent, notably in a thoughtful ballad, “If You Only Knew,” and in “Lost in the Crescent,” a story-telling piece that pairs him with his brother Branford on soprano saxophone in a colloquy of stylistic and temperamental contrasts. Branford’s tenor sax playing on three other tracks is among his best recent work on record.
Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison is on three pieces. With the late drummer Elvin Jones slashing and prodding behind him, he is notably adventurous on “Weaver of Dreams.” Mulgrew Miller is the impressive pianist, Eric Revis, the bassist. Sergio Salvatore is on piano and Edwin Livingston on bass in “If You Only Knew.” In all cases, the drummer is Jones, one of Delfeayo Marsalis’s mentors, a towering presence in this satisfying album. Marsalis has had an effective career as a producer. At forty-one, stepping out from behind the scenes, he seems more than ready for the spotlight.