Wynton Marsalis: Hesitation (Live 1982)




Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)


Jazz at the Opera House (Columbia 38430)

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Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Charlie Haden (bass), Tony Williams (drums), Herbie Hancock (piano).

Composed by Wynton Marsalis


Recorded: San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, February 22, 1982


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

I was in attendance when this track was recorded, sitting in the second-to-last row—the best I could afford on my tight student budget. But even up in the rafters, I could still feel the creative tension engendered by this dramatic collaboration between the 20-year-old trumpeter and the legends of the older generation. Some day you too might enjoy this music—but right now the geniuses at Sony are "protecting their catalog" by making this track unavailable on CD or download.

"Hesitation" had been the most intriguing composition on Marsalis's debut album as a leader (released shortly before this concert), and generated excitement among those who anticipated that this young artist would "go beyond Miles and Ornette." Here he is helped along by former collaborators of Davis and Coleman, and the slippery melody line comes straight out of the harmolodic playbook. The chords are just "I Got Rhythm" changes, but the aesthetic sensibility here pushes the soloists to the far edges of tonality. Marsalis is brash and bold and full of ideas. Putting Haden into the mix works beautifully, and by the time Mr. Shorter steps up for his solo, he is ready to make a big statement of his own. Herbie Hancock is omitted from the personnel listing on the sleeve for this track, but he does offer a few comping chords before laying out—he must have realized that no piano is necessary here, and would even spoil much of the fun.

This performance still stands out as a good indicator of what Wynton might have done if he had seen himself as a an acolyte in the temple of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. The path not taken . . . but a heck of an interesting detour.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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