“Like Being Inside Joy!” Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra LIVE! at MPAC

Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central
Published in
7 min readApr 6, 2024

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By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

Anticipation is in the air this Sunday, March 24, 2024 evening inside Morristown, NJ’s MPAC auditorium as jazz aficionados await a concert by the world’s premiere big band, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, starring trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and special guest star, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

The lights dim, and the musicians of the JLCO — trumpeters Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, and Marcus Printup; trombonists Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, and Elliot Mason; Sherman Irby, Alexa Tarantino, Chris Lewis, Abdias Armenteros, and Paul Nedzela on saxes, flutes, and clarinets; Joe Block on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums; along with music director Wynton Marsalis on trumpet — all take the stage.

The crowd whistles and cheers, and Marsalis responds, “Thank you so much! It’s always such a pleasure to play here,” before introducing “a true virtuoso,” guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the composer and arranger of tonight’s musical program.

Rosenwinkel enters the stage with his guitar, takes a seat, and opens the show performing his jazz concerto, “Chico and Harriet: Love Beyond the World.”

The sweet sound of Rosenwinkel’s guitar is deftly accompanied by swells and fills from the JLCO horn section as the woodwinds counter with their rich and full timbre on the piece’s introductory movement.

The composition’s second movement is more upbeat and jazzy and features blaring horns and the rhythm section swinging as Rosenwinkel soars on a guitar solo and Joe Block impresses on piano.

Rosenwinkel’s expert technique leads the piece into its third movement where Block renders a cascading piano solo and Rosenwinkel’s fast-fingered guitar playing is deftly supported by the talented JLCO musicians.

The crowd cheers, and Rosenwinkel replies, “It’s a great honor sharing this moment with you,” prior to revealing, “I had talked with Wynton Marsalis about arranging for this band — I hadn’t arranged before this — and I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage in this new creative process because the process is ‘where it’s at.’”

Sailing into “Homage á Mitch,” Rosenwinkel’s guitar work is complemented by upwardly moving chords as the piece segues into a samba-like feel where horn blips accompany the smooth sounds of the sax section.

After Rosenwinkel takes listeners on a lovely ride with his guitar and Paul Nedzela blows a low and growling baritone sax solo, Marsalis and Rosenwinkel breezily play off one another as the arrangement shifts into an upbeat swing feel prior to ending in a flurry of notes which elicit avid cheers from the crowd.

The orchestra climbs and swells before descending on “New B Major (Community),” a smooth and Latin-y confection which sports a thoughtful Kenny Rampton trumpet solo. It’s followed by “Filters,” a lively bebop number which spotlights Carlos Henriquez deftly playing up and down his bass, Abdias Armenteros on a staccato tenor sax solo, and drummer Obed Calvaire skillfully playing around his drum kit while crashing his cymbals to enthusiastic cheers and applause.

Following intermission, Rosenwinkel and Marsalis are featured on “Segrada Familia (Continuum),” a shimmering and syncopated composition which features a swirling Rosenwinkel rock-style guitar solo and Marsalis playing a New Orleans-style trumpet solo which flutters above the rhythm section’s solid musical foundation.

“The Past Intact” is an up-tempo swing number on which muted trumpets, chordal piano, and a variety of woodwinds — including bass clarinet — are highlighted. Henriqeuz plays a quick and rhythmic bass solo, Vincent Gardner renders a legato and then intensely rhythmic trombone solo, and Obed Calvaire deftly solos on the drums.

Sherman Irby cries out a soulful alto sax solo on “Path of the Heart,” a slow jazz number which also features Marcus Printup on trumpet and Alexa Tarantino who — in addition to playing sax, piccolo, and clarinet tonight — swirls and trills on an alto flute solo to excited applause before Rosenwinkel plays a screaming rock-style guitar lead while the band behind him builds to a climax.

Rosenwinkel and Co. follow up with “Terra Nova,” an upbeat jazz fusion number filled with chromatics which has Rosenwinkel fingerpicking his guitar prior to the ensemble shifting to a Latin feel where Irby performs an alto solo with great emotion.

For the evening’s final number, Chris Lewis is featured soloing up, down, and around his tenor on “Hope and Fear/Knowledge and Wisdom,” a modern jazz number which has Rosenwinkel picking his strings quickly with precision and agility to a standing ovation.

Marsalis thanks Rosenwinkel for his “artistry and virtuosity” prior to revealing that today is saxophonist Sherman Irby’s birthday. Marsalis invites the audience to sing as the orchestra plays a New Orleans-style arrangement of “Happy Birthday.” When a cake is brought out, Irby blows out the candles while simultaneously playing his sax, eliciting huge cheers and applause. To put a bow on things, Marsalis addresses the audience one last time, announcing, “We are the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Thank you for coming!”

Before the night is over, concertgoers comment on tonight’s JLCO performance. Exclaims Alex from Paramus, “I haven’t heard a big band sound this good since I heard Duke Ellington and his Orchestra back in the 1960s! Every section is fantastic, and every musician is a virtuoso on his or her instrument — the pianist is outstanding, Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar work is incredible, Wynton Marsalis performs with power and style, and Sherman Irby’s alto sax playing is what I would call ‘pure soul!’”

Hannah, an 11-year-old from Morristown reveals, “I’ve been playing flute for a year and a lot of the music the orchestra did tonight was fast and hard to play!” Adding, “I really liked all the solos and I think it’s really cool the guitarist wrote all the songs,” Hannah exclaims, “I also noticed that there was only one girl in the orchestra, and although I was expecting the woodwind players to maybe play two instruments tonight, she played four!”

Hannah’s mom, Lauren, concurs, acknowledging, “I, too, was impressed that the woodwind section played multiple instruments,” prior to joking, “I was out of breath just watching them tonight!”

Brad from Chatham insists, “I loved tonight’s show, it was tremendous! All the musicians were fantastic, and the compositions were really smooth. The pieces were so appealing — I’d never heard any of them before, but I could listen to them again and again. Also, Kurt Rosenwinkel was so smooth on guitar, and what more can I say about Wynton other than, ‘He’s Wynton!’”

Brad’s son, Myles, agrees, insisting, “I thought the show was fantastic! The instrumentalists were top notch. Like my dad said, I wasn’t familiar with any of the compositions beforehand, but you could really get into the ambiance of each one so easily, and I thought the selection of the pieces was perfect where each piece led into the next one perfectly.”

Marta from Morristown asserts, “This concert was amazing! I was completely mesmerized — I don’t even have the words to describe it!” Likewise, her friend, Patricia from Morristown, calls tonight’s show, “Amazing!” recalling, “I saw the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra here some years ago and I wish I they could be here every night,” before concluding, “For me, seeing and hearing them play is like being inside joy!”

To learn more about Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO, please go to jazz.org. For information on Kurt Rosenwinkel, please click on kurtrosenwinkel.com. For info on future MPAC concerts — including The Glenn Miller Orchestra on April 28, Buddy Guy’s Damn Right Farewell Tour on May 3, and Dweezil Zappa’s Rox(postroph)y Tour on August 22 — please click on mayoarts.org.

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