Ellis Marsalis – Whistle Stop (1994)

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NICK DERISO: This album effectively reminded us that New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis was still a hat-tipping, oh-so-swinging piano man — something the thoughtful, often romantic playing on his 1991 “Heart of Gold” release and then “Marsalis Standard Time, Vol. 3” with trumpet-playing son Wynton, couldn’t have hinted at.

This cat, you’re reminded, can cook.

Ellis sat in with son Branford and a working group of bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Jeff Watts that had helped Marsalis’ eldest establish himself as the most challenging, and satisfying, saxophonist of the period. (Younger son Jason Marsalis also appears on drums during two tracks.)

The sound is strictly bop and hard bop, but with some distinct Crescent City flavoring. Here’s how you know: Composers include clarinetist James Black, educator Alvin Batiste and Ellis himself.

In keeping, the sound on “Whistle Stop” leapt away from the quietly inspiring vibe of Ellis’ then-recent sides. This record shamed men half Marsalis’ age, and still does.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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