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Jason Marsalis has good vibrations

Vibraphone player Jason Marsalis, bottom, and his band.

Vibraphone player Jason Marsalis, bottom, and his band. Credit: Vibraphone player Jason Marsalis, bottom, and his band.

As the youngest member of one of jazz's most famous families, Jason Marsalis was still in diapers when his older brother Wynton released his first album.

Not surprisingly, Jason took to music quickly, landing his first professional gig at the age of 12. Since then he has explored a variety of styles, both as a bandleader and a sideman, playing drums and vibraphone. His new album with his vibes quartet is called "In a World of Mallets."

amNewYork spoke with Marsalis.

Why did you wait four years between albums? I wanted the band sounding mature. On our last album, we were a little rough around the edges, myself included. We got better over time.

You've complained that modern jazz has lost the element of swing. What do you mean by that? Not only has modern jazz lost the element of swing, it has lost the element of tradition. That's the biggest problem.

How did that happen? New York has never had its own music. Which musicians are from New York? Not many... In New York, the music has always changed. That has brought us a lot of possibilities, but now it's a problem because younger players don't have a historical perspective. They've decided we don't need that history. And in New York, you can get away with it because it never had its own music.

People see your family as a keeper of the jazz tradition. Do you? All of us understand the importance of tradition and history, so in that sense we're keepers of it, but we've always played our own music.

Is it hard to live up to the Marsalis name? No. There are names greater than [Marsalis] to live up to... On vibes, I think about people like Lionel Hampton. I'm thinking of that legacy more than what my family has done.

If you go: Jason Marsalis Quartet is at Jazz at Lincoln Center Monday night at 7:30 and 9:30, Broadway and 60th Street, 212-721-6500, $30.


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