Delfeayo Marsalis: His Time
In the early 1980s Delfeayo produced albums for his brothers, as well as saxophonist Courtney Pine, pianist/vocalist Harry Connick Jr., pianist Marcus Roberts, Donald Harrison, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and many moreover 75 major label recordings in all. He also did a couple of movie scores for Spike Lee. Those credits include Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and Mo Better Blues.
Marsalis says he always strived to get the acoustic sound, particularly with the low end of the bass, "so it doesn't sound rubbery. You can tell a big difference from the sound of records in the '70s and the '80s, typified by the records he did Wynton and Branford, "which were among the most listened to during that time. As a result, he feels that sound, which disappeared for a time, is heard more often on albums this decade because of the influence of those older records. "Maybe not directly, he says. "It's like how Miles influences other musicians. ... People heard the sound, and maybe didn't consciously say 'I'm going to get that' but they went that way. A lot of the sound I hear now can be traced to that. That makes me feel good.
As a trombone player, Marsalis says he listened to just about every major player from the beginning of jazz, and appreciates something about all the greats. The sound of Curtis Fuller. The way Steve Turre plays intervals. Tommy Dorsey for his melodic sense. The enthusiasm of Wycliffe Gordon. The virtuosity of J.J. Johnson. So many, including Conrad Herwig, Tyree Glen, Vic Dickenson and Al Grey.
But the main guy for me is Jack Teagarden. He was great. He could play so fast and so many things if you go back and listen to him. His own recordings don't do him justice. You have to listen to him on things with Louis Armstrong and others. His own recordings aren't that strong. They weren't arranged properly. But he's probably my main guy.
He adds, "Some of these guys in their 60s and 70s couldn't really play that much anymore, but go back and listen to the records when they were young and they play so fast and so much music. It's incredible, man.
Delfeayo's choice of the trombone as his instrument was in part to be different from his brothers, but not the main factor. He started out playing bass and drums because his brothers were horn players, but "the bass hurt my fingers, he says with a laugh, and he gravitated to the trombone because it was perhaps gravitating toward him.
I think that the instrument fits your personality. Sometimes you can tell what instrument a guy plays just by looking at him and talking to him. For him, the trombone touches on his ability to organize.
I think the instruments mirrors the type of personalities we have in the family. When you think of the trumpet, you never think of a trumpet player as a sideman. They are the ones out there leading the way. He's like the quarterback of the band. And that's just how Wynton is. And then the saxophone reeds are more supportive and Branford, he's just, to me, the ultimate sideman. Any situation you put him in, he's going to know how to make it sound good. The trombone connects and keeps things together. That's kind of my role. I've always been an organizer.
So organize he does. But there won't be as much as a producer in the immediate future. "I don't do that as much any more. I still do it at certain times. It's always nice to help somebody else sound good, but he's leaning more toward playing, having a working band, and composing, both for the band and for his education projects with the Uptown Music Theatre, which he founded in 1997 in New Orleans to provide eighth-to-twelfth graders with musical theater training. There, the youths have performed his original musicals Kidstown, The Pirate's Conspirate, Jaz and Jazmine Meet the Jazz Band, A New Tale of the Old West and Carol, Carol, Caroling. Community unity is the common thread, he says.
Working with that group and his group, and blowing that horn will be priorities for Delfeayo Marsalis going forward. His growing musical voice, and focused vision, will be a thing to enjoy.
Delfeayo Marsalis, Minions Dominion (Troubadour Jass, 2006)
Wycliffe Gordon, Standards Only (Nagel Heyer, 2006)
Marsalis Family, A Jazz Celebration (Marsalis Music, 2003)
Los Hombres Caliente, Vol. 3: New Congo Square (Basin Street, 2001)
Irvin Mayfield Sextet, Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 1999)
Buckshot LeFonque & Branford Marsalis, Music Evolution (Columbia, 1997)
Delfeayo Marsalis, Musashi (Evidence, 1996)
Elvin Jones, It Don't Mean a Thing Enja, 1993)
Delfeayo Marsalis, Pontius Pilate's Decision (Novus, 1992)
Branford Marsalis, I Heard You Twice the First Time (Columbia, 1992)
Al Grey, Fab (Capri, 1990)
Courtesy of Delfeayo Marsalis