If mainstream jazz has what could be considered an ambassador in 2009, it's Wynton Marsalis.
A member of jazz royalty practically from the moment he could hold a horn, Marsalis rolled into the sprawling Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Saturday night with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, a taut, 15-piece group he's directed since its inception in 1988.
While this conjures images of the trumpeter leading from a conductor's podium, Marsalis instead led his charges through brightly swinging arrangements while seated among the orchestra. Positioned in the back near versatile drummer Ali Jackson, the trumpeter was an authoritative but democratic figure as his group flowed through tradition-rich jazz numbers like a wave.
Touching on expert arrangements of classics, including Wayne Shorter's Free for All" and a swinging take on Old McDonald Had a Farm," each member of the orchestra was given ample space to shine, with the gifted Marsalis making his presence felt early with alternately soaring and understated solos during Jackie McLean's Appointment in Ghana."
But this wasn't merely a showcase for the bandleader. Acknowledging that saxophonist Ted Nash's parents were in the audience, Marsalis used the second set to showcase the young composer with a run of arrangements that culminated with Nash's musician father, Dick Nash, joining the band for an elegant trombone solo during the Lee Morgan bossa nova Ceora."