Fresh from touring with acclaimed banjoist Bela Fleck and pianist Marcus Roberts, Jason Marsalis returns to his role as band leader and vibraphonist extraordinaire with the release of his latest album, In A World of Mallets, on February 19 via Basin Street Records. His third release on the New Orleans-based label follows the drum-centric releases Year of the Drummer (1998) and Music in Motion (2000). Recorded in his home town of New Orleans and self-produced, In A World of Mallets is the first official release with his current band, the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet. For a sample of Jason's new tunes, listen to "Blues Can Be Abstract, Too" (feel free to post and share).
Of Marsalis' recent return to bandleader and vibraphonist the New York Times have said, "The youngest son of the Marsalis family, the drummer Jason Marsalis makes infrequent...self-produced records that are always worth hearing...Jazz often wants to be acceptably cool. Here there's a sense of an excellent musician trying out something risky without embarrassment."
With each passing year Jason Marsalis continues to grow and develop as both a composer and performer. With a fire in his heart and a passion for the music, his will to swing has never been more resolute. The maturity of this young lion and the command he possesses over his instrument is clearly evident on In A World of Mallets. Marsalis steps behind marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibraphone, and xylophone with a healthy mix of original compositions, work by his up-and-coming band-members, and dedications to former jazz greats. With "Blues Can Be Abstract, Too" Marsalis questions those who believe blues must be primitive in nature; he explores all genres of music with "Ballet Class," and demonstrates his true virtuosity with "Whistle for Willie." Compositions by each of his quartet-members, "Ill Bill," "Louisiana Gold," and "Big Earl's Last Ride," round out the center of the album with creative variation. Bobby Hutcherson's "My Joy" shows Marsalis' respect for the progenitors of jazz-vibraphone. "The Nice Mailman's Happy Song to Ann" traverses a wide variety of moods and feelings with varying iterations of a single theme.