Wynton Marsalis

Popular Songs: The Best of Wynton Marsalis

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Oh, the delicious irony of the title! Because, as you educated and erudite readers know, Mr. Wynton Marsalis is not fond at all of popular music, so the very fact that there are popular tunes within his catalog is nearly anathema to his aesthetic. But, given his stature as an ambassador of jazz (for the record, I once considered myself the ambassador of techno, but then I realized that anyone who considers the Stones the greatest band ever should graciously defer that title), and given the prominence of his role in Ken Burns' Jazz, there was a need for a sampler like this record, and hence the appearance of Popular Songs: The Best of Wynton Marsalis in the summer of 2001. Marsalis has recorded a lot of music -- and I mean a lot of music -- for Columbia. It's inevitable that the selections here are open for dispute, but it's still a little puzzling that much of this album bypasses the music that brought him to the spotlight (only "Black Codes" is here from his early-'80s albums), favoring the endless Standard Time series. This is accessible, enjoyable music -- there's a reason Marsalis coined these as standards -- and, as such, it's good for listeners who want a sampling of Marsalis at his easiest and most enjoyable, but it's hardly a definitive, or even representative, retrospective of Marsalis' career.

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