Guest of honor
Wynton Marsalis at the Ravens Club
by Patrick Dunn
The Heather Black Project's weekly jazz show at the Ravens Club regularly attracts top-notch local guest musicians, but an international celebrity who recently joined the group may prove hard to top: legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and members of his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra sat in for an impromptu set following their appearance at Hill Auditorium on March 30.
Invited by Detroit trumpeter and Ravens Club regular Marcus Belgrave, Marsalis arrived with Lincoln Center drummer Ali Jackson and pianist Dan Nimmer just before the Heather Black Project began its second set. Vocalist Heather Schwartz says she didn't want to blow their cover, so she just "mentioned a couple of times, 'If anyone happens to have their horn, we'd be happy to have any of these fine players come play with us.'"Marsalis, Nimmer, and Jackson took her up on the invitation halfway through the set, playing with HBP's bassist Josef Deas and trumpeter Ingrid Racine. Though Schwartz sat out the jam session, Marsalis praised her performance warmly. "He walked up to me, and the first thing he said was, 'You got this, girl. You got this,'" she recalls.
Schwartz says that Marsalis and company played about a half hour to a growing crowd drawn in by social media posts, then dashed out. It was, she says, both an "amazing" performance and perfectly natural in the jazz world. "Everyone wants to hear some grand story, but it's really just jazz cats playing," she says. "It was just another Sunday night, you know?"
[Originally published in May, 2014.]