Soul Gestures in Southern Blue

Wynton Marsalis presents in Soul Gestures in Southern Blue a three simultaneously released albums and a comprehensive survey of the blues, but the trumpeter’s purported triptych lacks sufficient variety or enough of a sustained vision to be convincing as a unified work. The absence of session-date information underscores the suspicion that the series is something of an effort to clean house, which is a shame because, as on any Wynton Marsalis record, there is much excellent music. Thick in the South benefits from the presence of the robust tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and, on two selections, the menacing brilliance of drummer Elvin Jones. Uptown Ruler, featuring the Marsalis quintet, gets off to an evocative start with the brief ”Psalm 26,” before plunging into an uneven set of performances marred by inexpressive piano solos by Marcus Roberts, protracted fade-outs, and a surprisingly unappealing blare in Marsalis’ normally fastidious tone. Too often Marsalis imposes intricate structures on the music, which undermines rather than accentuates blues feeling. It’s a relief to get to Levee Low Moan, the best of the three albums. His sextet voicings, canny rhythms, and return-to-basics expressiveness make this an affecting session. One exceptionally fine record could have been culled from the three albums, and taken individually they are rewarding, but the overall effect of all three is more wearying than inspiring. B+

Soul Gestures in Southern Blue
  • Music