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Issue: May 2010

New Orleans Jazz Fest Artist Recordings

Many New Orleans-based musicians try to tie in new releases with the opportunity to sell them to thousands of Jazzfest enthusiasts. Below are some recent releases deserving of your attention. References to the Louisiana Music Factory below are to New Orleans' independent music store of that name (the Crescent City's ear X tacy, if you will). (www.louisianamusicfactory.com)

Homecoming (ELM)

Eddie Harris/Ellis Marsalis

Music Update (ELM)

Jason Marsalis

These two recordings were actually released this past summer. The first is a reissue of a 1985 duo session with pianist Ellis Marsalis and saxophonist Eddie Harris, with 2008 "bonus tracks" featuring Marsalis and a rising star of New Orleans piano, Jonathan Batiste. Marsalis' opening title track evokes the spirit of homecoming, with its relaxed yet glad vibe.

Harris contributes the lengthy "Deacceleration," which begins and ends in a slow tempo while revving up for the solos. Besides originals, the pair plays three standards, including a highly melodic ballad, "Darn That Dream," and a fun, jaunty version of "Have You Met Miss Jones," featuring a stride intro. The newer two piano pieces demonstrate a strong grounding in the traditional rhythms of the musicians' native city, and include the slow, stately "Mind & Spirit" and the bouncy "Crescent City Montuno." Both sessions complement each other well. Ellis' son Jason Marsalis' new release finds Jason on vibraphone for most of the CD, leading a group with Austin Johnson, piano; Will Goble, bass; and David Potter, drums. Five drum tracks featuring Jason are interspersed in the program.

The quartet pieces (many of which I saw Jason perform at last year's Jazzfest, at an in-store at the Louisiana Music Factory) include originals such as "Characters" and tributes to Lionel Hampton, with renditions of "Midnight Sun" and "Seven Come Eleven." The youngest of the Marsalis musical clan continues to demonstrate both his compositional and performing skills. Taken together, these discs show the ongoing strength of contemporary jazz in the city which birthed it.

Get more over at <ellismarsalis.com and at jasonmarsalis.com.

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