Wynton Marsalis

On the Twentieth Century

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In search of a new concept for a classical trumpet album, Wynton Marsalis takes on some 20th century literature, this time with nothing more than the perfectly competent piano accompaniment of Judith Lynn Stillman. As before, he proves himself to be a technically unimpeachable classical trumpeter; nothing fazes him, nothing stumps him. Interestingly, his relative conservatism as a jazzman transfers noticeably over to the classical field, for his choices are mostly listener-friendly pieces that alternate between neo-classical territory and a French connection. No Berio, "Sequenza X," or any other avant-garde entries allowed. Hindemith's trumpet sonata is about the most rigorous piece of work -- as well as the longest -- on the CD, yet even this has an imposing exuberance that is not likely to put anyone off. This and Halsey Stevens' Copland-tinged neo-classical trumpet sonata are the big pieces which the other brief chips off various composers' workbenches lead up to. Among these chips are Ravel's graceful transcription of his "Piece en Forme de Habanera" for trumpet and piano; a dancing, lighthearted trifle from Henri Tomasi called "Triptyque"; Leonard Bernstein's "Rondo for Lifey," a tiny trot for actress Judy Holliday's skye terrier; and the even tinier, much goofier Poulenc's "Eiffel Tower Polka," with a sassy Marsalis playing two trumpet parts via tape. It's a pleasing, even enterprising package, if not an ear-stretching one.

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