Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2012: Ramsey Lewis (Festival Edition)

Delfaeyo Marsalis

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Delfaeyo Marsalis is the third brother in the famed Marsalis family. His father, Ellis, and all four sons—Branford, Wynton, Delfaeyo, and Jason—were honoured in 2011 with a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award, in recognition of their extraordinary contribution to jazz performance and culture.

Delfaeyo gravitated to the trombone in middle school, and like the rest of the family, he’s an accomplished classical player as well as a great jazz musician. I played alongside him extensively with Elvin Jones and the Jazz Machine. He is a commanding presence on the bandstand, a natural leader. He’s bold too—he’s the only trombonist I’ve ever seen walk into the Village Vanguard on Wycliffe Gordon’s stage and really offer him a challenge!

When Delfaeyo plays, you’re going to hear his New Orleans roots—the blues, the brass band, old swing, and that classic New Orleans tailgating style with trombone scoops and dips.

His most recent project as a band leader is Sweet Thunder, a re-interpretation of a suite by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The original offers musical portraits of Shakespeare’s characters, but Marsalis wasn’t interested in recreating that project. His wish was “to imagine what Ellington and Strayhorn would have written if they were alive today, more than 50 years later.” It’s a big project!

Delfaeyo is also a sought-after producer, an interest that emerged when he was still a kid, when his brother Branford taught him how to create a feedback loop on a reel-to-reel machine. That interest has followed him into adulthood—he majored in both performance and audio production at Berklee College of Music. He’s been producing recordings since he was seventeen, and his roster includes many major artists, including Harry Connick Jr, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and of course the projects of his own family.

On June 18, Delfaeyo hosts a free workshop on the jazz trombone at the Manitoba Conservatory of Arts and Music at 5:30 pm. At 8:00 that evening, the Delfaeyo Marsalis Sextet will fill every nook and cranny of the West End Cultural Centre with a jazz sound that reaches back to the rich roots of the art form. Don’t miss your chance to get down home with Homey.

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