Is it extravagant or presumptuous for Wynton Marsalis to release a seven-CD package in a year already chockablock with new Marsalis titles? In this case, the answer is no, because this relaxed yet ambitious compendium, recorded between 1990 and 1994 and with various incarnations of his septet, illustrates Marsalis’ considerable stylistic breadth and acumen on trumpet in a concise and evocative context. Not incidentally, through Marsalis’ stage banter and the cozy (i.e., sweaty) acoustics, we also get a vibrant, you-are-there taste of the ambiance of New York City’s celebrated Village Vanguard.
Marsalis’ restless invention, controlled aesthetics, and heated performance swagger are here in exploratory, extended suites, like ”Citi Movement” and ”In the Sweet Embrace of Life,” balanced by spicier, more compact charts, reworkings of Ellington and Monk tunes, and even a swinging take on ”Winter Wonderland.” The material coheres into a friendly, epic sprawl. Marsalis has fielded, and answered, accusations of conservatism over the years, but the history of the evolutionary revolution that is jazz breathes naturally through this music. A