In this case, the event was a fund-raiser at a small East Village community theater on Dec. 15, 2002. The enthusiastic audience fully appreciated the set encouraging the group with shouts and applause.The performers fully responded, creating a loose, let’s-have-a-party atmosphere.
Out of the confines of his job at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he serves as music director and composer, Marsalis sets the pace for an evening of small-group jazz improvisation at its best.
Things get started with a 16-minute take on Monk’s "Green Chimneys," setting free the jagged rhythms and bouncy "joie de vivre" of the piece. Marsalis’ free-form improvisation at the beginning is followed the intense alto of Wessell Anderson whose sustained-note intensity sets him apart from the many Parker-influenced alto players. Eric Lewis’ piano enters with his distinct Monk-tinged solo.
The tempo slows on "You Don’t Know What Love Is" with Marsalis in a lyrical mood, while Anderson comes in this time with Ornette Coleman-like abstract runs. This player bears watching, incorporating the style of his legendary predecessors but still his own man.
Things get jumping again with the bebop anthem, "Donna Lee." Marsalis, in staccato runs, gets the piece frantically moving, followed by some wicked exchanges between Anderson and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Bassist Kengo Nakamura takes his solo, and then in unison the gang finishes in a blur of sound with notes seemingly bouncing off the walls
Pianist Lewis stands out again in "What is This Thing Called Love," displaying block chord intensity. Anderson joins in like a king rooster, his squawking commands, urging the group on to the accompaniment of Orlando Q. Rodriguez's Latin beat.
The record closes with Marsalis exemplifying his New Orleans heritage with the traditional parade tune, "2nd Line," the leader growling dixieland style on his horn, a fitting end to the good-time session. You really wanted to be there.