Delfeayo Marsalis, “The Secret Love Affair” (2014): One Track Mind

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This song is, at its base, a warmly comforting breeze moving across a front-porch rocker, an inviting moment of reminescent passion. But that essential wistfulness, as expressed by leader Delfeayo Marsalis’ Bach 42-G trombone, is countermanded by a fleet group of sidemen.

Notable, of course, is Ellis Marsalis, as “The Secret Love Affair” opens the first full-length studio project Delfeayo’s ever mounted with his piano-playing father. Ellis plays with a twinkling sense of humor, reminding us — as he does so often throughout their collaboration on Last Southern Gentlemen, now out on Troubadour Jass Records — of the times a long-lost lover laughed more than the times you cried. Bassist John Clayton offers a well-appointed counterpoint too, giving “The Secret Love Affair” an unquenchable undercurrent of sensuality.

But the star of this song may just be drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Most associated with previous work alongside Steve Coleman and Dave Holland, Smith has roved far afield over the years, collaborating with everyone from Sting to Sonny Rollins to Willie Nelson. “The Secret Love Affair” is ample proof as to why. Not because of some virtuoso performance, although Smith is more than capable — but because of what he doesn’t do.

He plays with a regal reserve, setting a larger tone for the album. That space, the understanding of the dynamics of silence, gives this track its emotional power. He plays with a remarkable symbiosis, all the more notable since this was just Smith’s second time to work with Delfeayo Marsalis. He plays with wit and complexity, whether it’s on the bongos, the brushes or behind his main kit. Those textures do more than gird this music, they complete it.

As such, Marvin “Smitty” Smith is the secret weapon on “The Secret Love Affair” and, as you’ll hear, the rest of Last Southern Gentlemen, as well.

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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