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Delfeayo Marsalis makes America great again


Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, "Make America Great Again" (TroubadorJass)

Delfeayo is, in many ways, the most fun of the Marsalises. He's the family trombonist. And record producer. And he seems to be the family wise guy too.

In his newest Jazz Orchestra extravaganza, he takes off with some of the most sardonic political hoopdedoo since Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" gave us antic musical commentary on Arkansas' segregationist governor Orville Faubus on Mingus' 1959 masterpiece "Mingus Ah Um." On the title composition of this new disc, narrator Wendell Pierce tells us Trump's "this catchy slogan" is "certainly not" a "pragmatic proposition in the world today." Not in this "melting pot of diversity fighting a juggernaut of adversity."

By the time he's finished, Pierce, in Marsalis' sweeping words has taken his American "greatness...through the Middle Passage, and Trail of Tears, 10 Wars, 8 recessions, a Great Depression, Women's Suffrage, Whites and Colored Only, South moving North and East Moving West. ... I Am American protecting our American Dreams by any means necessary. United We Stand."

Delfeayo, like brother Wynton, is an Ellington man as a composer but he's even more a post-Ellington Mingus man. Basie seems to occupy a distant third in Delfeayo's world. Which makes "Snowfall" here a rich piece of Ellingtonian counterpoint. There's a choral rap here on "Back to Africa" and, along with a rapper, brother Branford Marsalis shows up on tenor on "Living Free and Running Wild." Just how much a wise guy Delfeayo can be on this disc comes out in his version of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" where he respects Copland's harmonies and still finds a way to use Copland's melody for a chattering trombone solo. I wish the notes for this disc had imparted that Marsalis didn't really write all of it. "Skylark" after all, is by Hoagy Carmichael, "All of Me" by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons and "Java" by Allen Toussaint, Freddy Friday, Alvin "Red" Tyler and Marilyn Schreck but I suspect Marsalis was having too much fun to get around to crediting them.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)


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