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In concert: The Jelly Roll Morton Latin Tinge Project" at the Kennedy Center

jelly rollClarinetist Paquito D'Rivera and arranger-trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman paid tribute to Jelly Roll Morton at the Kennedy Center. (All photos by Evy Mages/TWP)

By Mike Joyce

Judging from the paperwork alone, the musicians who took part in the world premiere of "The Jelly Roll Morton Latin Tinge Project" at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Sunday evening had their work cut out for them. Each performance of a newly arranged Morton composition was punctuated by the shuffle of sheet music, a constant reminder that the pianist's rich and complex repertoire predates the era of contemporary song forms.

Yet arranger-trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman wasn't preoccupied with matters of tradition and fidelity when the 6th annual DC Jazz Festival came to a close. His commissioned suite incorporated modern Afro-Caribbean rhythms, bop-inspired flourishes and flamenco dance in both elegant and stirring ways.

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A chamber jazz setting, prominently featuring Mossman, clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera and cellist Akua Dixon's Quartette, often served as the framework for orchestrations that evoked big band dynamics and interplay. Dixon's string quartet, for example, sometimes substituted for a robust reed section when D'Rivera's fluid clarinet and Mossman muted trumpet were carrying the melodies. Percussionist Pernell Saturnino, meanwhile, underscored the ties that bind Afro-Caribbean rhythms with seminal jazz works - in this instance, "King Porter Stomp," "Wildman Blues," "Finger Buster" and other Morton gems.

More rehearsal time wouldn't have hurt. At one point Mossman joked that the late show audience would hear his treatment of Morton's "The Pearls." In the meantime, he added, "The Oysters" would have to do. Nonetheless, the performance, enhanced by flamenco dancer Mayte Vicens's sensuous choreography and emphatic footwork, offered a delightfully imaginative take on Morton's great legacy.

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By David Malitz  |  June 14, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Michael Phillip Mossman, Paquito D'Rivera  
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