Considering it is only his second recording as leader, Jason Marsalis exhibits an uncommonly resolute assurance on Music in Motion. If his debut album heralded an exciting new voice in jazz, then its follow-up introduces a musician already in full command of his compositional and instrumental powers. The album is not only a confident statement (although it is certainly that, as Marsalis wrote all the compositions and produced the album himself), it is a recording that sets the bar high, and frequently succeeds at clearing it, putting forth a goal of expanding jazz's rhythmic palette and then finding a unifying principle with which to do so. Marsalis constructed the recording to accent motion, and he wrote all the tunes with rhythm in mind, to showcase the rhythmic possibilities of all the instruments, particularly the saxophone interplay of tenor John Ellis and alto/soprano Derek Douget, one of two holdovers from the first album. The duo perfectly complements one another, trading off wonderful playing on songs such as "There's a Thing Called Rhythm," with its multiple time changes, and the Brazilian-influenced "Maracatu de Modernizar." Marsalis also proves himself in exceptional form, emulating seminal influence Jeff "Tain" Watts on the rousing tribute to his brother Branford, "The Steepistician," and making a song out of the scintillating overdubbing exercise "Discipline Strikes Again," an extension of the previous album's percussion experiment, "Discipline." Improvisation plays a more central role on the album than on the previous one, and the band is more than up to the challenge. The unit perhaps experiments a bit less wildly than on the debut, but they are just as adventurous and draw on stylistic influences that are just as diverse. On "It Came from the Planet Nebtoon," they cast a bit of a free jazz spell, while "Seven-Ay Pocky Way" injects some welcome Meters-style funk into the equation, and it points to the true progression of Music in Motion. In his liner notes, Marsalis describes his vantage point: "If jazz is to keep moving forward, all of the musical styles in jazz history have to be advanced while including musical styles out of the jazz realm." Music in Motion is a fabulous first step toward that ideal.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart