That doesn't stop him from hitting the road occasionally. Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra will close out the JazzSLC 2017 season Monday night at Capitol Theatre. They're promoting a uniquely topical album: "Make America Great Again," which was released Sept. 30.
The timing was no coincidence. And the title track doesn't shy away from the political: "There will always be those of us who long for the good old days," the narrator says, over a jaunty backbeat, "either because we weren't there, or we've simply forgotten what those days were actually like."
The song is a thinly veiled critique of the battle — rhetorical and otherwise — still raging over whose America this is. Marsalis has had a front-row seat to the debate over whether to preserve or remove memorials of the Confederacy around New Orleans. (Crews took down the last of four monuments, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, on Friday.) And the Uptown Jazz Orchestra's latest recording reflects that tension and history, ticking off milestones — the middle passage, 10 wars, eight recessions, women's suffrage, "whites and coloreds-only," the moon landing and the national parks — before a final salvo:
"I am American, protecting our American dream by any means necessary. United we stand. Making America great again," the narrator says.
But don't assume Monday night will be heavy, Marsalis says. "The CD really captures the spirit of New Orleans today," he adds, "which is both celebratory and introspective at the same time. We're dealing with the removal of Confederate statues while still being the party capital of the country.
"I feel an obligation to represent as much of the history and the current state of affairs as we can. Our show offers a pretty full menu — everything from traditional New Orleans style to swing to bebop to modern jazz."
He also claims his bands "have always been the most fun" of the Marsalis groups. The orchestra includes educators, composers, bandleaders and Seattle pianist Meghan Swartz.
"That's the New Orleans way," Marsalis says, "just create on-the-spot and bring the love, joy and humor all at once. It's definitely one of the most entertaining jazz shows you'll ever see due to the personalities and attitudes in the group."
Seems like a fitting way to end a season.