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Delfeayo Marsalis and Uptown Jazz Orchestra to Serve Up Ten-Course Meal
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Delfeayo Marsalis has toured with such musicians as Ray Charles.
   
Monday, February 12, 2024
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Delfeayo Marsalis is the only one of the four big-name Marsalis brothers who has remained in New Orleans.

He can’t imagine leaving The Big Easy--except to share its cool vibe with others.

Marsalis will serve up a slice of New Orleans and all that jazz when he and his New Orleans-based Uptown Jazz Orchestra perform on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at The Argyros in Ketchum. The concert—as much a party as a concert—starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50, available at https://theargyros.org/

“We have a new wardrobe in the Mardi Gras tradition, including masks, made especially for this tour. And we hope those in the audience will dress in Mardi Gras costumes, let loose and have fun,” said Marsalis, who was dubbed a “merchant of joy” by Downbeat for his relentless fun, gospel grooves, Afro-Caribbean flavored street beats and nouveau swing.

Marsalis grew up a part of jazz royalty. His father Ellis, was a respected piano player and music professor. His older brother Wynton became an esteemed trumpet player, going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his “Blood on the Fields. Brother Branford, a saxophone player, led the Tonight Show Band, and brother Jason has carved out an illustrious career as a drummer and vibraphone player.

Delfeayo earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and Production from Berklee College of Music and a Master’s in Jazz Performance from the University of Louisville. He began his career as a producer at 17 and has so far produced more than 120 recordings, for which he’s received one Grammy award and several nominations.

He’s produced recordings for his father and brothers, Harry Connick Jr. and Spike Lee, among others.

“My dad never pushed us musically. He played more modern jazz—that was the kind of music he wanted to play. But in the clubs he would play rhythm and blues, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, which is more what New Orleans audiences gravitated towards. He encouraged us to experience different types of music. By the time I started playing seriously, Brandon and Wynton were already out of the house in college so we never played as a family band.”

Delfeayo picked the trombone as his instrument because, he said seemed like a logical choice—an extension of his personality.

“Trumpet and saxophone—they’ve got their own thing going on. And there’s a reason the trombone is in the middle of the band—to keep the trumpets away from the saxophones,” he said. “The trumpet’s job is to play the melody, and the saxophone has to decide, ‘Am I going to agree or disagree with the trumpet?’ The trombone keeps the peace, sitting in the middle, and saying ‘Hey, everything’s cool.’ The trumpet brings the energy, the funk.”

Marsalis, now 57, formed the Uptown Jazz Orchestra in 2008 as an ensemble designed to maintain the spontaneity and fun of New Orleans jazz, as well as such jazz traditions as the riff, polyphony and the music of such greats as Count Basie.

Spurring him on was a performance he had playing “The Nutcracker” with a band that he said was uncompelling because it just played the notes on the page without soul and spirit.

“We have 15 of us in the band and we’re just out to have a good time,” he said. “Coming from a big family with six boys, you have to know how to negotiate. And the band does a good job of getting along like that.”

Inspired by a younger brother with autism, Marsalis formed the Uptown Music Theatre in 2000 to empower youth through musical theater training. He has written 16 musicals and composed more than 90 songs for that venture.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, he started Swinging with the Cool School jazz workshops to provide musical therapy at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. The program has expanded to offer live instrumental jazz to youth around the country.

“My brother is nonverbal but he understands things. This allows students—whatever their difficulties—to have the opportunity to learn,” Marsalis said.

Marsalis and his Uptown Jazz Orchestra plan to record a new CD following their performance in Sun Valley. Marsalis promises it will feature tango and other dance music, as well as classics and original compositions.

“We don’t have a name for it yet, but it will probably be out around August or September,” he said.

In the meantime, he has a big party at The Argyros to attend to.

“We just want people to come out and expect to have a good time,” he said. “We’ll make our show a 10-course meal so, by the end of the concert, everybody leaves well fed.”

CULINARY INSTITUTE TO THROW FAT TUESDAY PARTY

The Big Easy will come to the Sun Valley Culinary Institute at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, when Chefs Melissa Mauselle and Joseph Tocci offer a Fat Tuesday party where festive attire is encouraged and masks and beads will be provided.

The party starts with passed hors d’oeuvres, mini muffuletta sandwiches, shrimp po boy canapés, a first course of oysters Rockefeller and a second course with a Louisiana sunburst salad. A main course of chicken and andouille gumbo with white rice will be followed by a dessert of king cake and beignets.

To learn more, go to https://sunvalleyculinary.org.

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