Picks and Pans Review: New York Second Line
Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison
If nothing else, this album proves that not every bright young jazz musician who comes out of New Orleans these days is named Marsalis. On the other hand, both Blanchard, 21, a trumpet player, and Harrison, 23, a saxophonist, studied with Ellis Marsalis, the New Orleans pianist who has come to be known mainly as the father of Wynton and Branford Marsalis, the rightly celebrated young trumpet-sax team. Blanchard, in fact, says Ellis Marsalis taught him "the most important thing to ever learn about music—what the notes do inside the form. You can always learn a lot of tricks that might be technically difficult, but if they don't do something inside the form and the ensemble, you're just pasting something on top of a picture, not adding colors that fit." Not only do Blanchard and Harrison play with swinging facility and warmth, they play together with swinging facility and warmth, turning this debut LP into a set that is emotionally involving as well as intellectually stimulating. Six of the seven tunes are originals—a wry, lazy version of I Can't Get Started by Harrison is the exception. They're all compositions, too, not just titled solos. Blanchard's up-tempo Oliver's Twist and Isn't It So?, a melancholy ballad by pianist Mulgrew Miller, are especially striking. (Miller, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Marvin Smith, like Blanchard and Harrison all present or former members of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, provide an ideally restrained rhythm section.) "From Miles Davis I learned how important it is to be able to take your time," Harrison says, and this album reflects that admirably measured economy of both ideas and style. These are musicians who make every note count. (Concord)
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