Arts Post
Posted at 02:48 PM ET, 03/28/2011

Marsalis and Blanchard bring the fire at the Kennedy Center

The double bill saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard shared at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Saturday night easilylived up to expectations--unless you were expecting the New Orleans natives tomatch wits at some point. There was no pairing of headliners, nogood-natured sparring, no surefire encore. Yet there was no shortage of fireworks,either.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26, The Branford Marsalis Quartet in concert at the Kennedy Center on March 26, 2011. Branford Marsalis on sax during the concert. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post) (TRACY A WOODWARD - THE WASHINGTON POST)

Marsalis and Blanchard led their respective groups through invigoratingback-to back sets, laced with challenging arrangements and virtuosic turns.Soulful interludes surfaced amid the scorching crescendos, though the bandleaders weren’t always at the center of attention.Marsalis seemed eager to showcase his longtime pianist Joey Calderazzo-- a smart move despite some technical glitches. Calderazzo offered twoself-penned tunes that displayed his formidable technique and imagination. His opening—as yet untitled-- contribution set the bar high for the evening.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30, In the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on January 30, 2011. Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Orchestra. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post) (TRACY A WOODWARD - WASHINGTON POST)
After Marsalis brashly illuminated the spiraling theme on soprano sax, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner fueled Calderazzo’s sweeping dynamism, which, in turn, inspired a series of bracing, flat-out choruses from the quartet’s leader. Marsalis’s command of the soprano was impressive throughout, especially during the performance of Calderazzo’s “Hope.”Shaded, accented and to some extent orchestrated by Faulkner, the spiritual ballad demanded a lot from Marsalis, who responded with elegantly sustained phrases and a rich, expressive tone. On tenor, the reedman often projected a full-throated, vibrantly rhythmic sound, evoking shades of Sonny Rollins during piano-less trio passages and when the band brought fresh exuberance to Thelonious Monk’s “Teo.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26, Terence Blanchard Quintet in concert at the Kennedy Center on March 26, 2011. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post) (TRACY A WOODWARD - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Blanchard kicked off his quintet’s set with a vividly colorful array of Crescent City trumpet sounds—smears, growls, pinches, slurs, clarion shouts.His repertoire, which includes numerous film scores, is so rich and multifaceted, that his performances invariably leave something to be desired—inthis instance, something large scale. Instead, Blanchard celebrated small combo chemistry, with tenor saxophonist Brice Winston and drummer Kendrick Scott generating plenty of hard bop intensity during the opening performance of Blanchard’s “Wandering Wonder,” The spotlight often shone on the young, Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan, who combined a percussive attack with dashing chromaticism when the tempo was swift, and bassist Joe Sanders, who helped personalize the band’s engaging take on Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave.” “We just want to have fun,” said Blanchard early on, and most of the tunes, including “A Time To Spare,” offered listeners an exhilarating ride.

By Mike Joyce  |  02:48 PM ET, 03/28/2011

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