Compared to his 2002 album, All Rise, which consisted of an extended composition for big band, gospel choir and symphony orchestra—some 200 players, all told—trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis' latest platter is child's play. Which, according to Marsalis, was the point. "I wanted to restate my basic love of jazz music in a quartet format," he says.
Magic Hour is Marsalis' debut for the legendary Blue Note label, and represents a marked departure from his recent ensemble work. By surrounding himself with a cast of youthful musicians for whom he served variously as a musical mentor during their formative years, Marsalis has managed to build a record from the ground up, beginning with bassist Carlos Henriquez' bouncing grooves, accented by Ali Jackson's intuitive drumwork and rounded out melodically by Eric Lewis at the piano and, of course, Marsalis taking the lead on trumpet.
"[I wanted to cover] the four basic attitudes of jazz: 4/4 swing, Afro-Hispanic rhythm, blues and the ballad," Marsalis says.
While Wynton Marsalis is arguably the most famous jazz musician of the past two and a half decades, he's also been a controversial figure, based on his rather selective historical knowledge of the music and occasional brash, not-quite-factual assertions. But, as a trumpeter, Marsalis has cultivated his own signature sound that combines the far-reaching style of Miles Davis circa mid-'60s with those of classic Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington—Marsalis has truly become one of the greats.