It's heartening to note that the musicians of Marcus Roberts's septet at Blues Alley could well be championing unalloyed jazz for another 50 years or so.
The youngest member of the unusually constituted band -- sax, trombone, two trumpets and rhythm section -- is 16-year-old Nicholas Payton, a promising trumpeter from New Orleans with a bright, occasionally sassy tone and a crisp attack. Last night Payton joined tenor saxophonist Herb Harris, trumpeter Scotty Barnhardt and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis in giving the horn section an alternately sunny, moody and hard-nosed disposition on pieces that ranged from a freely swinging blues by Todd Williams to an intriguing and sometimes incendiary 12-tone tune by Ellis Marsalis.
All the performances, in fact, were intriguing for one reason or another. That was especially true of Roberts's multifaceted piano blues "Deep in the Shed" and "The Governor," and a pair of solo arrangements of tunes by Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington that displayed Roberts's keen affinity for their music and a generation of pianists who preceded them. Rounding out the band and largely responsible for its powerful rhythmic thrust and subtle shading were bassist Chris Thomas and drummer Billy Kilson.
The septet will be at Blues Alley through tomorrow.