Wynton Marsalis in Boston

Nobody, not even the archangel Gabriel, can wail on a horn like Wynton Marsalis. This past Sunday, Marsalis brought his horn, his quartet, and his favorite jazz tunes to the Sanders Theatre at Harvard as part of the Bank of America Celebrity Series. Joined by piano, bass, sax , and drums, Marsalis produced an intimate sound suitable to a smoke-filled club, but with 1100 in the audience, the spontaneity of clubs like New Orleans' Snug Harbor was lost.

Drawing greatly from The Magic Hour, Marlsalis' first release on his new label Blue Note, the evening showcased the diversity of Marsalis' style. Whether it was the lightening quick notes of the title track, the soulful strains of "Rosie Rose-Rosalee," or the latin rhythms of "You and Me," Marsalis proves he is the world's greatest living trumpeter.

Critics may complain that Marsalis' treats jazz as moribund art only home in a museum, but no one can make that argument about his playing. As a matter of fact, Marsalis understands jazz better than anyone. It should not be an academic experiment; it needs to be experienced viscerally. After a heart pounding rendition of the jazz standard "The Blues," Marsalis told the audience:
"When they come from Mars, they won't wanna know about our technology. They'll wanna know about BBQ and the Blues."
Jazz is about the experience, and the showman in Marsalis provides his fans with just that: a powerful experience to be savored and remembered for a lifetime. Each song in the evening's repertoire was designed to exhibit Marsalis' command of his instrument, yet never have I witnessed someone so utterly devoid of ego. He literally steps out of the spotlight when he's not playing in order to allow the band the opportunity to shine.

Two highlights of the evening, besides Marsalis' trumpet, were Dan Nimmer on piano and vocalist Jennifer Sanon. The twenty-three year old phenom from Milwaukee, Nimmer, wailed on the piano with dexterous simplicity creating tension in the negative space he generated between notes. Living in the highest two octaves on the keyboard, Nimmer lovingly accentuated every note played by Marsalis and saxophonist Walter Blanding, Jr complementing their sound, creating a tapestry of auditory colors. Sanon, even younger at only twenty, reminds one of the young Ella Fitzgerald swinging on songs like "Lucky So and So," "Azalea," and "Them There Eyes."