The Jam at the Artists’ Quarter

It was 1AM when Delfeayo Marsalis arrived. Many patrons at the Artists’ Quarter in Saint Paul had already left. After all, they’d been treated to a fiery appearance by Cuban drummer Francisco Mela and members of his band, who tore through a couple of jazz standards. I’d tell you what they were, but who had time to take notes, or do anything other than soak in the music. Young trumpeter Marquis Hill, from Chicago also stepped up, blazing through a number of solos. Young pianist Witness Matlou surprised with his imaginative playing, and a young cat whose name I didn’t get played one of the AQ’s tables as if it were a conga drum. He then did a four hand piece with Jon Weber, the pianist with an encyclopedic knowledge of tunes and piano styles. Jon served as the ringmaster. Earlier, he, Billy Peterson on bass, and Joe Felice on drums backed chanteuse Maude Hixson in a sublime set.

So, everyone was feeling good, and as I said, a number of folks packed it in, thinking it was too late for anyone else to show up. But Delfeayo surprised and delighted those of us who were left. Marquis Hill had packed up and was beginning to leave, but soon unpacked. He was joined by another young, fiery player on saxophone. And on one song, a trumpeter came up and played a fine solo using a mute. It was the only contribution from him during the evening, but it was solid. The Twin Cities’ own Mac Santiago sat in on the drums and cooked. Other players joined in. It was difficult to keep track. 

It was, as you might expect, thrilling, as each of the players brought forth their A-game. Those of us in the audience could only bask in the music. After 50 minutes, it was time to close shop, and the stage lights were shut down, but Delfeayo and Jon offered one last blast to send us into the night.

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