CD Review: ‘Jazz Party,’ Delfeayo Marsalis & Uptown Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Party
With Delfeayo Marsalis and Uptown Jazz Orchestra
Troubadour Jazz Records

When this CD arrived for review I thought that, if it were anything like he previously produced CDs, trombonist-bandleader-composer Delfeayo Marsalis would produce another musically challenging and thought provoking recording. He doesn’t disappoint.

As with his previously produced CDs including Southern Gentleman—a duo recording with his pianist father Ellis and Make America Great Again, recorded with his big band we get a sly tongue-in-cheek sociological essay along with an interesting commentary on how the recording was produced. Delfeayo composed and arranged most of the music whereas other band members also made contributions in the composition and arrangements. Delfeayo and his big band perform on most Wednesday nights at Snug Harbor on New Orleans’ Frenchman Street and this recording favorably reflects their work together.

As the name of the recording implies, this is upbeat, contemporary New Orleans party music. Any of this would be appropriate for a “second-line” celebration.

Along the sociological line, D. Marsalis has composed a tune he calls Mboya’s Midnight Cocktail. Liner notes indicate the Mboya is Delfeayeo’s autistic younger brother. There is a one-way conversation in a crowded bar between the cocktail waitress and the mute patron. And, on the last cut on the album, the composition is played again without the speaking part.

If well executed New Orleans party music is on your wish-list, this is a recording for you, but you’ll need to wait for the February release.

February 2020 issue of The Syncopated Times features Jazz Pensacola friends

The February issue of The Syncopated Times has a number of Jazz Pensacola friends and artists featured.

The lead article is by drummer Hal Smith and features New Orleans pianist John Royen. Vocalist Rebecca Kilgore’s photo heads the Festival Roundup pages. And, finally, a column on early jazz recordings by David Sager, trombonist and jazz historian who works at the Recorded Sound Research Center at the Library of Congress.

Now, for those who may be new to Jazz Pensacola or for some longtime members who may need a memory refresher, I’ll review for you the Pensacola connections.

Hal Smith

Hal Smith, drummer and jazz historian, now lives in Searcy, Arkansas, which he says is “central to all parts of the U. S.” He lived in the New Orleans area for about 10 years and connected with the traditional jazz musicians there. He’s also lived in the San Diego area and is still connected with America’s Finest City Jazz Society and returns yearly for their Thanksgiving weekend jazz festival. Hal has played two of our Pensacola JazzFests. One year, he brought Portland, Oregon, vocalist Rebecca Kilgore and on a subsequent visit he brought West Coast jazz pianist Carl Sonny Leyland. One year, he and a New Orleans group was scheduled but on highway I-10 at Pascagoula he was stopped by traffic tie-up and motorist behind him crashed into his car and banged up (bad pun) his drum kit and Hal’s shoulder. His New Orleans group performed with guitarist providing the rhythm instead of Hal on drums. Most recently, two years ago for our Foo Foo Fest event, he organized a group performing the music of trombonist Kid Ory. Hal is a regular performer at many jazz festivals, jazz house parties around the country. His YouTube videos are numerous including ones from his Pensacola appearance with his On The Levee Jazz Band.

Jazz pianist John Royen is featured on front page of The Syncopated Times (TST) and there is a listing of his recordings elsewhere in the paper. He recounts to Hal Smith, in Hal’s role as writer/historian, his early experience with jazz through his father’s influence by attending live performances as well as perusing his father’s extensive jazz collection. The Pensacola connection was a piano extravaganza performance about 4 years ago at UWF Music Hall. Royen, along with Lynn Arriale and our own Bobby Van Deusen gave a wonderful concert to enthralled audience. Our own Crystal Joy Albert was in the role of impresario for that event.

Rebecca (Becky) Kilgore is a regular at jazz parties and jazz cruises. She’s both a singer and guitarist who has regular gigs in the Portland, Oregon, area when she’s not traveling. As mentioned earlier, she appeared at our 1999 Pensacola JazzFest, the first year that Jazz Pensacola was sole sponsor of JazzFest. (For newcomers, the first six years were sponsored by Pensacola Arts Council; the next 10 years were successfully sponsored by WUWF Radio with our jazz society again in a support role.

Finally, David Sager’s article about early jazz recording leads me to mention that David, in his role as trombonist, brought a group of New Orleans musicians for our November Foo Foo Fest event about three years ago. The evening before, he led a discussion about early jazz recording at the downtown West Florida Public Library, and backed by some of our own Jazz Society musicians, he performed as well.

So, this month’s TST is loaded with material which relates directly to Pensacola. In addition, there is a long article about Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in the 1920s and 1930s. Whiteman hired many jazz musicians to perform with his enlarged orchestra. These included Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Jack Teagarden and Bunny Berrigan. Bing Crosby got a boost in his career by performing with Whiteman.

The Pensacola connection to this story relates to our Jazz Room at the downtown West Florida Public Library. There is a two-volume work on Whiteman’s career by Don Rayno and also DVD of the 1930s movie called King of Jazz. This DVD is of interest because it was produced in early Technicolor and has some early cartoons where Whiteman reacts with a cartoon character. There is also a book, with color illustrations, about how that movie was produced.

On a personal note, I have been a reviewer of jazz CDs and books since before the name and ownership change from The American Rag to The Syncopated Times in 2016.

And speaking of the library jazz room, there are subscriptions to Downbeat, JazzTimes and TST for your information and reading pleasure. There are books, CDs and DVDs as well as play-along books and recordings currently valued at $20,000 for library members to check out.

One may subscribe to The Syncopated Times through syncopatedtimes.com or email the editor Andy Senior at [email protected]

CD Review: ‘Light Blue,’ Julien Hucq

Light Blue
CD features alto saxophonist/ composer Julien Hucq
Early Bird Records
© 2019

This is a delightful straight-ahead CD by alto saxophonist Julien Hucq. He has assembled an excellent small group that includes veteran performers Claudio Roditi, trumpet, and pianist George Cables. Completing the group are bassist Marcos Varela and drummer Victor Lewis.

At the time of this writing, I was sad to learn of the recent death of Roditi.

There are 44 minutes of delightful music on this CD. Two of the compositions are by Hucq — “Light” and “X,” Two are by familiar composers, “Light Blue” by Thelonious Monk and “Here’s that Rainy Day” by lyricist Johnny Burke and composer Jimmy Van Heusen. And, each performer is adequately show-cased.

Lest one think that this is a “one shot” recording for Hucq, this is indeed his first CD produced in the U.S. but he has six previous CDs in Europe. He’s a Belgian native who has been performing in the States since 2012. In conversation with him, I learned that he and Roditi had a working relationship in that Hucq has performed in Roditi’s group and there was somewhat of mentor-mentee relationship as well. And there was a similar relationship between bassist Marcos Varela and the elder pianist George Cables.

For more information, see Hucq’s several YouTube offerings and also his bio on the internet.

Drum Roll, Please: Let’s Teach Some Jazz!

JEN CONFERENCE 2020

Greetings, friends.

This past week (Jan. 7-10), I was able to attend the Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans! And what a conference!

From the moment you walk in, you are deciding what clinic or concert do I go to? Tom Latenser and I took the Northwest Florida State College Jazz Ensemble to this event. The jazz ensemble played there the last time it was in New Orleans. This time we went to watch. 

Here is a list of players we checked out: Dave Stryker, The Brubeck Brothers, Tia Fuller, Sean Jones, Chucho Valdes, Ricky Sebastian, Howard Levy, Victor Wooten, Matt Wilson, Rosana Eckert, Bria Skonberg, Terrell Stafford, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Johnny Vidacovich, Rick Margitza, Tom “Bones” Malone, Dave Liebman, Adam Nussbaum and Gene Perla.

Exhausted yet? Try being there!

Also, we got to see past Pensacola JazzFest artists Mike Pellera and Bob Sheppard. On a very cool note, we got to hear the great Navy Commodores with Pensacola native Steve Williams playing his next-to-last performance before his retirement.

This is a conference not to be missed if you can ever get to one. You will remember it always!

Peace.

Fred Domulot
Jazz Pensacola President