Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Date and Venue 27 June 2008 @ 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer Susan Peake

There can be no doubt that Vancouver puts on a top notch Jazz Festival when concerts by Wynton Marsalis and his world renowned jazz ensemble are on the program. A full house of eager fans scurried to their seats at the Orpheum on 27th of June to enjoy a special treat by this Pulitzer Prize winner in company with his 14 piece orchestra members.

Marsalis is not a front and centre type of guy; in fact, he is so modest in terms of grabbing the limelight that you have to look for him in amongst the other members of the orchestra to find him. He sits in the back row beside the other trumpet players and announces the upcoming compositions.

Only twice does he actually leave his seat to come front and centre to perform his impeccable trumpet solos. As well, he is very diligent in identifying solo performers by name after each one has completed their solo regardless of how brief it happens to be.

The orchestra is made up predominantly of brass and woodwind instruments – trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, trombone - together with piano, base and drums, and this tremendously talented group of world class musicians are so diverse in their repertoire and crystal clear in their tone that even a jazz neophyte gets why this group is so well respected.

Highlights in the first half of the program included a clever adaptation of “Blue Skies,” an innovative version of “Down By the Riverside” and an abstract piece called "The Holy Ghost” that cleverly created a spiritual sensation.

The second half was a more abstract experience that was introduced as a unique Spanish collaboration, “You’ll Be Sorry” and included a common Spanish musical element - hand clapping. Marsalis clearly invites collaboration, and he shared with us “Congo Square,” a composition created with Ghanaian drum master, Yacub Addy.

It would be unfair, perhaps even impossible, to single out any one musician as outstanding, other than,of course Marsalis himself, but the exceptional solo work of saxophone/clarinet great, Sherman Irby deserves a mention. The polish, perfection and stage presence of this musical genius was an added delight.

The Vancouver Jazz Festival is an enormous gift to the city with 10 days of fascinating entertainment available; Wynton Marsalis and his ensemble are an example of the calibre of talent we have the privilege to enjoy. How lucky we are.

© 2008 Susan Peake