April 25, 2004
The rain soaked those in line waiting for the gate to open at 11 a.m. Many people seeked asylum in the Jazz tent after their ticket was torn, and I was one of them. But, I had a reason. I was there to check up on Jason Marsalis. He was out of the public spotlight for a while, and no one knew what he'd play Thursday--drums or his newly discovered love, the vibraphones.
It was the vibraphones, and I'm glad for it. I've already seen him dominate a drum kit, so it was great to see him also excel at the vibes. Marsalis was smokin' as he and his young band played energetic, modern jazz. Midway through the set, Marsalis dedicated three Lionel Hampton covers to the legendary man who introduced the vibraphone to jazz. Marsalis didn't stumble once as he ran through Hampton's parts. Even though he was focused, his attitude said he was having fun giving props to a hero.
The music was great, but Marsalis' character made the concert truly enjoyable. He was humble, and he spoke with love as he introduced songs. He spoke in a patient, wise and educational tone, and I thought he'd make a great ambassador for New Orleans music. Marsalis openly corrected himself when he erred, and this was endearing. Also, from the sidelines he visibly and enjoyably nodded his head to his band's music.
Marsalis had guts. He quit Los Hombres Calientes, which sold many records and was ensured to only get more and more popular. He left a mastered instrument for one that would require more willpower and a clean career slate. Thankfully, he did not rush. He studied the vibraphone for a few years before he returned to the spotlight Sunday afternoon. At the concert, it paid off.