Among the jazz royalty in the highly competitive Marsalis clan, nobody would have conjured up Delfeayo—best known for producing his brothers' music—as the one to drop the most distinguished disc of 2006, particularly in a year when Branford's superb Braggtown swaggered into being. But the aptly named Minions Dominion resurrects the snap, crackle, and hard-bop of vintage Blue Note label records from the '60s and the cavernous, incandescent sound of the early Coltrane quartet outings on the Impulse label. Recorded more than two years ago, it is also blessed with the extraordinary grace note of being the scintillating swan song of the late drummer and ex-Coltrane cohort Elvin Jones.
Delfeayo (the tromboning Marsalis, for those of you without a scorecard) and Jones are the only constants throughout Minions' seven songs. "Brer Rabbit" is the Blue Note doppelganger, where Delfeayo's magisterial blowing recalls J.J. Johnson while alto saxophonist Donald Harrison spray-paints notes like Jackie McLean and pianist Mulgrew Miller mines a funky groove Bobby Timmons would recognize, supple bop solo included. One of five Delfeayo compositions, "Lone Warrior" was written for Jones, and from his portentous snare-drum murmuring on the Trane-like intro to his sharp-eared shepherding of Harrison's and Delfeayo's extended solos, Jones transforms the occasion from tribute to sonic textbook for timekeepers everywhere. I'd be remiss to omit mention of Delfeayo's gorgeous, muted trombone solo on the obscure Ellington soft shoe number, "Just Squeeze Me." Or the climactic, roiling finale, "Lost in the Crescent," where Coltrane's old pal Elvin takes his ride cymbal revelries and inimitably smattering snare beats to a higher plane.