Friday night’s concert at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was a journey through the sonic library of American musical history. That is evidenced by Wynton Marsalis’ drive and energy as music and artistic director, factors which have helped make his ensemble a force in the evolution of jazz.
It’s an evolution that offers up new arrangements by historical masters like Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie along with new material written by members of the ensemble.
The first half of Friday night’s program was devoted to Jellyroll Morton and featured tunes like “New Orleans Blues,” “Jellyroll Blues” and “The Crave" with Marsalis as master of ceremonies from his seat in the trumpet section.
Every solo heard was a gem from start to end. It wasn’t just the sound or the skill that made that part of the evening so enjoyable; there was the definite onstage appreciation of the musicians for each other. You could see smiles and nods when a soloist hit a particularly pungent phrase and it wasn’t just from the audience.
The second half of the show led off with Marcus Printup’s arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie's “Fiesta Mucho” and there were gasps heard in the audience as the audacity of the solos from Printup and various members of the saxophone section went through the changes.
The later part of the evening was also a chance to display works by band members including samples from alto saxophonist Shermen Irby’s “Inferno Suite” inspired by Dante and trombone player Vincent Gardner’s “The Jesse B. Semple Suite.” Both were strongly characterized examples that touched on the Third Stream model which blends aspect of jazz with traditional European based classical music.