Marsalis blends funk, fun in area show

Delfeayo Marsalis performs before 200 enthusiastic people at the Grand Premier Hotel ballroom in Toledo.
Delfeayo Marsalis performs before 200 enthusiastic people at the Grand Premier Hotel ballroom in Toledo.

Delfeayo Marsalis wasn’t kidding when he said he would bring a steamy slice of New Orleans funk to Toledo for his concert Wednesday night at Jazz on the Maumee.

In a show that was equal parts sublime virtuosity and giddy fun, the trombonist and his six-person band romped through an 80-minute show before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 at the downtown Best Western Premier Grand Plaza Hotel.

Kicking off with a fat blast from his trombone and powering into the romping Professor Longhair standard "Go to the Mardi Gras," Marsalis led the audience and the band through a swinging musical tour of the Crescent City. Resplendent in a blue suit with a checked shirt, red tie and a pair of white bucks, the trombonist swayed and bopped to the music, gave instructions on the arrangements mid-song and would shut his eyes and grin beatifically when his band mates launched solos.

Highlights included drummer Winard Harper who drove the music through its hairpin turns with equal parts grace and fury, an exercise in controlled kinetic energy. Victor Goines was a revelation as he played with fluency and speed on the clarinet, cornet and saxophone. Trumpet player Marquis Hill and baritone sax player Lauren Sevlan rounded out the horn section and each shared the spotlight and gave the music dimension and heft. Bass player Eric Wheeler held it all together and pianist Richard Johnson was equal parts rhythm ace and soloist.

Marsalis does not play the role of the jazz academic bent on impressing his audience with technique while boring it into submission. Who else would slam through a smoking version of the Flintstones theme song and turn it into a powerhouse jazz workout or lead the audience in singing along to "Little Liza Jane" without a hint of irony?

Best of all most of the arrangements built tension into the songs that would grow and then with a sharp pop from Harper explode into a flurry of energy that released in a most satisfying fashion.

Marsalis last played in Toledo in 2011 when he was at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle on his Sweet Thunder tour, which paired the music of Duke Ellington with the words of William Shakespeare, and suffice to say Wednesday's show - presented by the Art Tatum Jazz Society - brought a different kind of energy.

He is a member of the famed New Orleans jazz family that includes patriarch Ellis Marsalis Sr, who plays piano, and brothers Wynton, Branford, and Jason. In addition to his trombone playing, he is perhaps best known as a producer, working behind the scenes on a number of jazz albums, and an educator.

Marsalis will be at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library today at 10 a.m. to read from his children's book No Cell Phone Day. He also will read from the book at 2 p.m. and will be in the museum's Great Gallery tonight at 7 to give a talk titled “Be Creative, It's Cool Like Jazz.”

Contact Rod Lockwood at: or 419-724-6159.