WYNTON MARSALIS QUARTET The Magic Hour (Blue Note) Rating: NNNN
Wynton Marsalis spends so much time alongside Stanley Crouch promoting their flat-earth theories of jazz, it's easy to forget how great a player he once was. For the most part, The Magic Hour puts aside the conservative rhetoric and revisionist history and finds Marsalis shooting his mouth off through his trumpet rather than from a pulpit. His first record for Blue Note is a conscious throwback to his earliest jazz sets for Colombia, a straight-ahead, frills-free session of original material featuring strong solos from his young quartet and muted trumpet from the leader. Dreary vocal tracks featuring Dianne Reeves and Bobby McFerrin take away from the disc's momentum, but overall Marsalis hasn't sounded this fresh and committed in years. On the roiling Big Fat Hen, he even sounds funky. Don't tell Stanley!