This is Marsalis's fifth album for Blue Note and is about the relationship between man and woman.
It's a thematic work expressed in a mixture of spoken word and Jazz.
The trumpeter's latest outing intersperses a dozen fine new compositions with a series of less compelling recitations of his own poem "He and She".
The subject is just as the title suggests, the relationship between the sexes, traced from childhood to maturity: not a love story but a life story of the evanescence of life and the elusiveness of romance.
The music is a mix of jazz, swing and blues and within the parameters of Marsalis' approach, the group experiment widely.
Marsalis leads his quintet from the front in inventive fashion, and receives powerful support from Walter Blanding's tenor and soprano saxes, and a superb rhythm section of Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass) and Ali Jackson (drums).
Punctuated throughout with Wynton's own poetry, the songs have the simple titles of "Sassy", "First Kiss", "Girls" etc leaving the music to fill in the picture.
Musically, it's all very beautifully crafted and performed with confidence and skill.
The album ends with the title track, Marsalis finally concluding "A man and a woman is a dangerous thing, a train, a banjo and a chicken wing".
Marsalis's weak point is his preacher's instinct, so there's plenty of spoken material along the lines of "red, red moon, big, big sky, the road, only the road", to represent the supposedly universal underpinnings of male-female courtship.
Once you get past all that, the trumpet-playing - pure in the upper register, with directness weighed against Miles-like muted ambiguity - is gorgeous.
The album's peaks: "The Sun and the Moon", with Walter Blanding's smoochy sax, "Sassy" and "Girls!".
The CD debuts at # 6 of the Billboard Top Jazz Albums.
Issue date 2009-04-11
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