Wynton Marsalis: In This House, On This Morning
In This House, On This Morning
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)
In This House, On This Morning (Columbia 53220)
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Wes Anderson (alto sax), Todd Williams (tenor sax, alto sax), Eric Reed (piano), Reginald Veal (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), Marion Williams (vocals).
Composed by Wynton Marsalis.
Recorded: New York, May 28-29, 1992 and March 20-21, 1993
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
There are many tempting pigeonholes in which to place this 2-hour work by Mr. Marsalis. You could call it his personal variant on the old Ellington Sacred Concerts. Or you could look it as an apprentice effort pointing toward Marsalis's later Pulitzer Prize-winning composition Blood on the Fields. You might even see this as a historic moment in the institutionalization of jazz. (This was the trumpeter's first commission from Jazz at Lincoln Center.)
Or you could do as I suggest, and actually listen to the music and let it speak to you on its own terms. Of course, it is much more convenient to have a readymade opinion about Wynton that exempts you from actually having to hear his music. But if you put your ears to the test you will encounter many aural moments of high distinction, from that expansive opening motif of "Devotional" (vaguely reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere") which will return to greet the perspicacious listener from time to time, to the glorious and free-ish trumpet speaking-in-tongues of "Call to Prayer" and the 6/8 cool jazz stylings of "Hymn." And let me call attention (to pick a few more pleasing examples) to the horns that sound like church bells in "Recessional" and Wynton's celebration of his New Orleans roots in his concluding "Pot Blessed Dinner."
The third movement is my favorite. Here Reginald Veal's opening bass solo is raw and meaty, and prepares us for some soothing horn strains that begin setting the tone at the 5-minute mark. This interlude measures how much Marsalis had changed since Blues Alley: much of this writing here is built on long held notes, sweet-and-sour textures that create tension by implication rather than demonstrative excesses. In fact, that is true of this whole composition, where background riffs and rhythmic patterns are given plenty of room to make their point, and soloists wait for the right moment to make a big statement. At times, the piece risks collapsing into pastiche—this is always the dark storm cloud on the horizon in mid-period Marsalis—yet this artist's high seriousness generally keeps him on the high road. His success in this regard is all the more telling when one considers how much "low road" pastiche was circulating in the New York jazz world during this era.
The trumpeter had appeared on more than a dozen releases during the four years leading up to the debut performance In This House, On This Morning at Avery Fisher Hall on May 27, 1992. By releasing so many recordings during this period, Wynton didn't make it easy for his audience—or even jazz critics—to keep up with him. Nor does Columbia make it easy now, by keeping this double-CD out of print (although the music is available as a digital download). But those who spend some time with this work will be rewarded for their efforts.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia