00:54: I can’t tap my feet

Three-fourths of those in the audience qualified for the senior discount but there were a smattering of ungrayed heads in the packed Artemus Ham Hall on the campus of UNLV on a Saturday night for a performance of that uniquely American art form known as jazz, jive, swing, bebop, boogie woogie, blues, rhythm and blues, jitterbug, big band, the original hip hop, whatever you want to call it and whether you want to dance, play, clap in tune, just listen, tap your feet or write about it.

It was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, who unpresumptuously leads the band from the back row, first-trumpet seat instead of out front as a conductor, because, as he freely and frequently admits, he is a better trumpet player than a conductor. This concert was part of UNLV’s New York Stage & Beyond series.

The musical selection was what you’d expect of the ambassadors of American music, lively and all over the map — from the opening “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” -- I’m not making this up -- through a bluesy “I Left My Baby Standing in the Backdoor Crying” that included vocals by one of the trombonists, to a Marsalis composition dedicated to the Basque people called “Freedom Tree,” through a classic Chick Corea tune called “Straight Up and Down,” to a Cuban-inspired composition by bassist Carlos Henriquez called “Two-Three's Adventure,” through another child catcher for all ages with vocals by another trombonist “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” and finally two Corea tunes “Matrix” and “You’re Everything,” followed by a nice encore featuring Marsalis backed up by piano, bass and drums.

In order to give both the audience and the players a chance to catch their breaths between sets, Marsalis offered up his trademark rambling, often nonsensical monologues possibly intended to intro the next tune, but it was hard to tell. But how else would the audience have known that trumpeter Kenny Rampton is a local who studied music at UNLV in 1989 unless Marsalis told us about his family being in the audience and his sister bringing a German chocolate cake for the band and how Marsalis doesn’t even like cake but apparently had a sugar high from consuming a bit too much, but was it a cake or a soufflé? “Speaking of cake,” the next piece had nothing to do with cake.

Rampton has had quite a varied career since taking off for New York, including various stints with the assorted bands formed to honor the late bassist Charles Mingus. That’s Rampton in the cap with The Mingus Orchestra at right.

He has played with Ray Charles, Jon Hendricks, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, of course, Chico O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band, Lionel Hampton, Dr. John, Clark Terry, Christian McBride and many others, as well as the Kenny Rampton Sextet.

Here is a video Rampton’s brother created to advertise the website he built for brother Kenny. Listen for the meaning of the song at the end: