Branford Marsalis Metamorphosen

We know that knowledge and expertise are sufficient to make a good career in music but it's genuine vision and occasional inspiration that make for the kind of riveting music that leaves us cathartically moved and transforms the musicians into genuine artistic icons. On saxophonist Branford Marsalis's Metamorphosen we get inspiration but not vision. To be sure, all of the nine tunes are played with impressive displays of technique. "The Return of the Jitney Man" is powered by the driving drums of composer Jeff "Tain" Watts, guided by the strong hands of pianist Joey Calderazzo and fronted by the throaty-toned tenor of Marsalis. Good stuff. Then the group veer off into maudlin Calderazzo original "The Blossom of Parting" that has Marsalis's soprano vibrato sounding cringingly close to Kenny G. Yikes! Then the foursome decide to explore Lee Konitz/Lenny Tristano territory with the leader switching to alto sax. Who'd have thunk? Finally, in the last two tracks, comes "the lesson." Bassist Eric Revis's "And Then, He Was Gone" has everyone playing with genuinely felt reverence and a transcendently selfless play-only-enough-to-speak-what-is-needed restraint that's the sign of mature artists. The last piece, by Watts, is derivative of Wayne Shorter's Joy Rider but that doesn't matter. Because after the initial I've-got-to-play-these-licks gambit is exhausted, the group become possessed by the spirits and things launch into an orbit only those who have deep knowledge, technique and years of experience can reach, leaving listeners open-mouthed in amazement. (Marasalis)