REFLECTION: Hanging out with “Black Codes” featuring the legendary Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis, BLACK CODES (ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: Jan, 11, 1985)

Being an ardent advocate of modern jazz and emerging new sounds and artists, pondering this segment titled “REFLECTION” is something I never intended on doing from the place arrived from let alone writing frequently about some of my favorite older jazz recordings.

Today, I revisited “BLACK CODES” it is undoubtedly a mind changer and one of my favorite albums by renowned trumpeter/composer and educator Wynton Marsalis. FROM THE UNDERGROUND sustains its purpose by being an unmeasurable palette as I hear it stands out among the best of his previous recordings because it embodies progressive ingredients, melodies, rhythms, and intricacies that make jazz what is today as America’s unbridled classical music conceived by black musicians (no pun to other cultures).  The album opens with the iconic “BLACK CODES” the title immediately frames the coherent conversation, structure, and language needed to attract an intended and broader audience.

FOR WEE FOLKS” follows as the absolute hippest tune on the record. The ensemble’s (best of the best here) cohesive interplay swings with depth and the dexterous swagger of old school players seizes and retains your attention from beginning to the end. With five more tracks in the balance, I was eager to hear “DELEAYO’S DILEMMA” it lands as an infallible tribute to his brother Deleayo is a thoughtful approach that’s vibrant, and embraceable tune qualifies as essential modern jazz at its finest.

Another attractive piece in the mix is “PHRYZZINIAN MAN,” this jewel compliments the session. It inhabits, yes, inhabits the sway, harmony and technical artistry jazz fans have come accustomed to hearing Marsalis score and play. The mellowed bluesy tenor of “AURAL OASIS” articulates his brilliance, on this lush arrangement as the title implies will envelop you into the moment as you wade through the cool, intimate, and melodic jazz to relish with each listen.

CHAMBERS OF TAIN” as expected explodes with fast and furious rifts, expressions, and fascinating interplay provided embellishes perfect timing and deeply rooted in the tradition of bebop. Tough the blues is not necessarily my forte, in all due respect to where this music derived from any jazz artists of Wynton’s magnitude will enthusiastically play the blues in any situation. That said, this tune ironically titled “BLUES” reaffirms this sentiment with the authority and attitude of an elder statesman.

While some may disagree, “BLACK CODES (FROM THE UNDERGROUND)” for me is undeniably one of his signature masterpieces. I say this because Marsalis is true to the music, he’s a warrior and loves the art of playing he urgently invokes the spirit of curiosity, and familiarity he provides a pleasurable listening experience that should satisfy the appetite for jazz enthusiasts everywhere.   


  • Wynton Marsalis – trumpet.
  • Branford Marsalis – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone.
  • Kenny Kirkland – piano.
  • Charnett Moffett – double bass.
  • Jeff “Tain” Watts – drums.
  • Ron Carter – bass on Aural Oasis.

At your leisure, check out “BLACK CODES (FROM THE UNDERGROUND)” by Wynton Marsalis.

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