Wynton Marsalis does his best seemingly to seem like just another guy in a 15-piece band.
But the modest, unassuming trumpet player blows his cover whenever he takes a solo or engages the crowd in off-the-cuff witty banter as he frequently did during Monday's concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Sitting in the middle of the back row, next to the drums and sitting next to fellow trumpeter, and Las Vegas native, Kenny Rampton, Marsalis could largely escape notice.
But early in the show, when he introduced Rampton and delighted the crowd by telling how Rampton's mother, a former schoolteacher and one of 15 children, was in town from Nevada and had seen many childrens' concerts over the years in Kingsbury Hall, the crowd filled with applause.
So much for being just another guy.
When opening with "Inaki's Decision" from the 2010 release "Vitoria Suite," the band roared to life and fell into rhythm as sparkling solos from pianist Dan Nimmer and saxophonist Sherman Irby delighted the audience - both finished in flurries of applause. Marsalis also took a solo during this number that the crowd met with cheers.
Continuing with a selection from "Vitoria Suite," the band played "Deep Blue (From the Foam)", again highlighted by an Irby solo, and also paced by rhythmic clapping from various band members.
The roughly 100-minute show simultaneously hit a highlight and lowlight when during Duke Ellington's haunting "The Single Petal Of A Rose" - featuring only Nimmer and Joe Temperley on bass clarinet - an audience member's cell phone rang. A clearly exasperated Marsalis seemed to laugh to himself and then dropped his head and rubbed his forehead for much of the rest of the song.
Meanwhile, Temperley - whom Ellington had described as the band's "secret weapon" - lived up to the moniker with a gorgeous, soaring solo over a delicate backing provided by Nimmer.
Save for the cell phone, this was arguably the show's peak moment, but there were many to choose from: The band's blistering take on Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones" - arranged by saxophonist Ted Nash - was also tough to top as was bassist Carlos Henriquez' rollicking Latin-tinged composition "Two Threes Adventure."
Almost certainly, however, many people's favorite moment came during the encore, with Marsalis standing up front and leading a mini-version of the group, just bass, drums and piano, the band riffed over a bluesy vamp before being joined by trombonists Walter Blanding and Victor Goines.
The trombones brought the most "New Orleans" flair of the evening's music and Marsalis -a native of the Big Easy - responded with multiple extended solos.