Enough is enough.
Wynton Marsalis' contribution to jazz is indisputable--he has been a central factor in any resurgence this art form is now experiencing. But to call him the greatest trumpeter in the last 30 years, as his crony critic Stanley Crouch does in these liner notes, is to propagate an opinion that is both fallacious and laughable. And this is an era that has produced such masters as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan and Tom Harrell.
On this album--a two-CD, two-hour, blues-tinged recording that loftily aims to instrumentally portray the many varities of the Afro-American church service--Marsalis reveals, as he has for some time, admirable strengths and puzzling weaknesses. His strengths remain his commanding technique, his round, burry sound. But he still falters as a swinging soloist by, say, unwittingly stopping a smooth flowing statement with an illogical leap to a higher note that shimmies oddly.
As a composer, Marsalis still works in the shadow of Duke Ellington, and there's a strong Ellington flavor to this piece. Many of the selections, such as "Call to Prayer," have a nice, modern swing feeling, while others, such as "Processional," have a '30s and '40s air, sounding dated and, at times, just plain corny.
Still, there are moments that provide plenty of pleasure. Among them: Todd Williams' raucous tenor crackling over a snappy 7/4 beat on "Recessional," Eric Reed's propulsive, gospel-based piano on "Holy Ghost" and guest vocalist Marion Williams' robust tones on "In This House." But by and large, the entire recording seems too intellectual for its own good.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).