Having made the switch to exclusively playing vibraphone with his quartet on 2009's Music Update, Jason Marsalis sticks to his guns, errr, mallets on 2013's In a World of Mallets. Besides vibes, Marsalis also plays various other instruments here including marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, and xylophone. Once again working with his quartet featuring pianist Austin Johnson, bassist Will Goble, and drummer Dave Potter, Marsalis delivers an exploratory yet swinging mix of chamber and post-bop jazz. As an ensemble, they seem to have a relaxed, intuitive sense for group interplay and plenty of chops to spare. Here, Marsalis leads them through a handful of his own original compositions (and some by his bandmates) that reveal his own bent toward mixing urbane classical themes, bluesy swing, and contrapuntal post-bop sections. In that sense, tracks like the epic "Blues Can Be Abstract, Too," and the jaunty "Blues for the 29%ers," bring to mind work of his brother's Wynton and Branford. This is especially true when the band moves back and forth, doubling up the time between phrases in a kind of fractured, slightly outré post-Thelonious Monk swing style. Which isn’t to say this is avant-garde music. However, there is kind of a cerebral, yet playful classical aesthetic at work on In a World of Mallets. This is perhaps best displayed on the opening and ending cuts, "Discipline Discovers a World of Mallets," and "Discipline Gets Lost in a World of Mallets," in which Marsalis layers his vibes and bells and various percussion instruments to create a kind of chamber jazz sound. Primarily, Marsalis is an immensely talented player with lively improvisation skills and a band which is more than capable of leaping into these articulate, wry, and adventurous compositions.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar