Trombone great Delfeayo Marsalis was only able to play a three-song set (because of timing) at last year's Maui Jazz & Blues Festival. But in that short time he demonstrated how a master plays his instrument, from an absolutely mesmerizing version of "What a Wonderful World" to the jubilant groove of Duke Ellington's classic "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."
Returning to Maui to play at the Grand Wailea on Saturday, Marsalis will finally have an extended opportunity to enthrall jazz fans here with his prodigious talent.
Acclaimed as one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today, Marsalis' credits include years of touring with such legends as Art Blakey, Abdullah Ibrahim, Max Roach and Elvin Jones.
* Delfeayo Marsalis performs at the Grand Wailea’s Tsunami Club from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. He will play with drummer Paul Marchetti, pianist Shiro Mori and bassist Danny M. Tickets are $98, which includes a dessert buffet, one drink ticket and a donation to the Maui Charity Walk. Tickets also include 20 percent off food and beverages at Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a or Bistro Dinner just prior to the concert. The discount offer is valid on the night of the event only. For more information, call 875-1234.
A younger brother of Branford and Wynton of the legendary Marsalis family, he's been hailed by The San Francisco Examiner as "one of the best, most imaginative and musical of the trombonists of his generation"
Born in New Orleans in 1965, Marsalis was destined for a life in music. As a young child he remembers lying under the family piano while his father, Ellis Marsalis, played.
"My dad had such a gentle touch," Delfeayo explains. "The sound was so comforting. Especially when I play ballads I'm thinking of expressing the melody in that respect. And when I produce records I try and give the listener that type of comfort in the sound quality."
So what was it like growing up in such a talented household?
"My dad was trying to play jazz and my mother was trying to do the best she could," he recalls. "It was very difficult. Branford and Wynton were in the first generation of students that weren't forcibly bused to integrated schools. My parents' generation and the generation before had struggled so much, so my mom always made sure we never missed school and we always did our homework. She prepared us to succeed. And we just got the horns and went crazy."
With Wynton focused on trumpet and Branford on sax, Delfeayo (pronounced Del- fee-yo) turned to the trombone.
"By the time I first started playing, Branford and Wynton were graduating from high school so we could have had this Earth, Wind and Fire horn section," he notes. "Our instrument choice perfectly mirrors our personality. The job of the trumpet is to play the melody and not pay attention to what anybody else is doing. It's perfect that Winton picked the trumpet because he has that kind of personality.
"The job of the saxophone is to first make the trumpet sound good, but also provide tension, so the saxophone and trumpet are always fighting and battling, then they make up at some point. Then you add the trombone to the mix to keep the peace and make sure everything is cool. That perfectly suited my personality. And the trombone in a New Orleans' band has the greatest responsibility. Sometimes I play like a tuba and other times I harmonize with the saxophone and trumpet, and other times I'm playing the counter line."
Besides playing trombone, beginning at the age of 17, Marsalis began producing recordings for major artists including Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard and many for Wynton.
Between producing and performing and touring with jazz legends from Art Blakey to Elvin Jones, Marsalis has released the occasional album including the thematic projects "Pontius Pilate's Decision," "Musashi" and "Minions Dominion."
Released in 1992, his first solo recording, "Pontius Pilate's Decision," explored Jesus' crucifixion week.
"We grew up Catholic and my favorite part of church service was listening to the Gospel, the stories," he reports. "I wanted to make a record and was thinking what's been important in my life."
For his latest album, "Sweet Thunder (Duke & Shak)," Marsalis crafted a modern interpretation of the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn suite "Such Sweet Thunder." Debuting in 1957, this historic work featured musical depictions of themes and characters from William Shakespeare's plays.
While earning a master's degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville in 2004, Marsalis wrote a dissertation comparing Shakespeare and Ellington. During his research, he came across Ellington's original scores for "Such Sweet Thunder" at the Smithsonian Institute.
Ellington initially conceived the material for a 15-piece big band. Marsalis reimagined the album by streamlining the original arrangements to eight musicians, including brothers Branford and drummer Jason Marsalis.
"I stumbled on it while getting my master's to recharge the battery," he explains. "Ellington wrote his arrangements in such a way that it was perfectly suited for a smaller ensemble, which is more my expertise. The other thing is I don't believe in repertory. When Wynton plays Ellington's music with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, it's more repertory. That's where we have a serious departure in philosophy. There's no way to play those recordings any better. So my thinking is how can I update it, how can I give it a modern-day makeover? A lot had to do with choosing different instrumentation. So it was a combination of that and changing up the groove. I'm really proud, and I hope students will check it out because it's a way to take something that exists and keep the essential ingredients, but at the same time bring your own flavor to it."
Lahaina will be awash in great jazz as the second annual Front Street Jazz and Blues Walk presents a wide array of artists playing at various locations April 13 through 15.
The fest will feature headliner saxophonist Marion Meadows, along with the Hot Club of Hulaville, Willie K, Kelly Covington and David Choy with SLAM, Benoit Jazz Works, Fulton Tashombe's Maui All-Star Jazz Band, Phil Smith and the Gentlemen of Jazz, R.E. Metoyer Blues, Rock & Soul Revue, the Sam Ahia Quartet, Soul Congress, Ono Grimes, Bob Jones & The Drive, the Latin Jazz Messengers, Sal Godinez and Bob Harrison and the Lahainaluna Jazz Band.
"The inaugural Front Street Jazz & Blues Walk went unbelievably well," reports Bill Burton, president of the Maui Jazz Society. "Around 3,000 people attended during the three-day event." Again this year, most of the performances are presented free of charge. More info coming next week.
Celebrated trumpeter Michael Lenke will perform with student musicians and singers from King Kekaulike High School at the free 15th annual KKHS Spring Concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The concert features the KKHS Jazz Ensemble, the KKHS Concert Choir and the KKHS Wind Ensemble under the direction of Casey T. Nagata.
Lenke is known throughout the Pacific Northwest as a powerful, high-energy trumpet soloist who is equally adept at playing lyrical trumpet and flugelhorn solos within a symphonic concert setting as he is soaring over the top of a jazz orchestra. He has performed and recorded with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, B.B. King and Ray Charles.
"God made me blind and unable to walk, big deal," announces pianist/vocalist/trumpet player Patrick Henry Hughes in a YouTube video.
"He gave me the musical gifts I have. When I play music everything changes. I feel the music moving through me, lifting me like I'm swimming in water and feeling lighter. When I play 'Clare de Lune' by Debussy, I imagine a beautiful night and I experience this."
A world-renowned musician and inspirational speaker, Hughes travels the globe with his father, Patrick John Hughes, sharing his remarkable story of overcoming obstacles and reaching one's fullest potential.
Hughes, 23, was born without eyes or the ability to fully straighten his arms and legs. Additionally, he had two steel rods surgically attached to his spine to correct scoliosis. Despite being blind and wheelchair-bound, he defied the odds at just 9 months old when began to play the piano, and since then, he has refused to allow his disability to stand in the way of his dreams. Among his accomplishments, he played trumpet in the University of Louisville marching band, while his dad pushed his wheelchair.
His extraordinary talents have been featured on many TV shows including "Oprah," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "Extreme Make Over Home Edition," and "The Today Show."
During a visit to Maui, Hughes will appear at Baldwin High School, Seabury Hall, and Ha'iku, Pomakai and Kihei Elementary Schools from Tuesday through Thursday.
* Maui High School Band students will perform with Hughes at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Castle Theater at the MACC, under the direction of band director Kerry Wasano. This event is part of an outreach campaign by Imua Family Services, celebrating 65 years of service on Maui to children with developmental delays, disabilities and special needs. Tickets are $20 for adults, and $10 for kids 12 years and younger, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.