Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Wynton Marsalis

  • J Mood [Columbia, 1985] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

J Mood [Columbia, 1985]
As the first young jazz musician ever to enjoy true major-label promotion, Marsalis is trapped into selling an image whether he likes it (or admits it) or not. On the one hand, he inevitably attracts admirers who respond not to the substance he hawks so assiduously but to the idea of it, which makes me wonder whether they really thrill to the shadings and dynamics that up till now have constituted his genius. And on the other hand, those of us who can't stand his expensive tailoring and neoconservative pronunciamentos are tempted to dismiss the pleasures they insure. Listen hard enough and pleasures reveal themselves in profusion, but despite what Marsalis believes even their profusion isn't quite reason enough to bother, because in his wrongheaded determination to adjure the trendy and the obvious, he never lets loose. Most of us would say that inventing meaning while letting loose is the essence and promise of jazz. Neoconservatives wouldn't--maybe because they're not up to it. B+