Jason Marsalis Quits Los Hombres Calientes

Youngest member of the Marsalis clan wants to concentrate on straight-ahead jazz drumming.

Drummer Jason Marsalis has quit Los Hombres Calientes, citing other professional commitments and a desire to concentrate on straight-ahead jazz rather than Los Hombres' potpourri of Latin jazz and world music.

"The concept of Los Hombres Calientes is something I'd like to deal with a few years from now," Marsalis said in a statement released Thursday. "Working with all those elements — reggae, samba, Cuban, African — is not what I want to do right now. There are some things as far as the drum vocabulary and the history of jazz that I really need to get together. I want that to be really strong; then, when I want to play sambas and those other world musics, I'll be ready for it."

Marsalis dropped hints about leaving the band at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival a few weeks ago after one of his gigs. "I really think that the most interesting musical project I'm involved with is the Marcus Roberts Trio," he said of the pianist who employs him. "What he is doing with his musical conception is unreal. We are going to really nail it down and then hit the road in the fall."

Jason Marsalis, 23, is the youngest sibling in a musical New Orleans family that includes trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trombonist/producer Delfeayo Marsalis and their father, pianist Ellis Marsalis.

During the past year, Jason Marsalis missed nearly half of Los Hombres' gigs because of conflicts with his own quintet's schedule and his dates with Roberts. Just recently at the New Orleans festival, drummer Jazz Sawyer filled in for Marsalis, but there has been no confirmation as to whether he will be the permanent replacement.

Marsalis co-founded Los Hombres Calientes in 1998 with percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield; the band also includes pianist Victor Atkins, percussionist Yvette Summers and bassist Edwin Livingston. The band's self-titled 1998 debut was the top-selling CD during the 1998 and 1999 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals, and it also was named Billboard's contemporary Latin jazz album of the year. The band's second record, Volume 2, also has been selling well, peaking at # 15 on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart last week. The CD contains the tune "A Comer y a Descargar" (RealAudio excerpt).

The band has gone through a lineup change once before. Bassist David Pulphus left before the band's second record came out. Livingston replaced him.

Los Hombres Calientes and Marsalis' solo quintet are signed to New Orleans' Basin Street Records.

"I'm sorry that Jason won't be involved with Los Hombres Calientes,but look forward to the development of his own band," Basin Street owner Mark Samuels said. "He has been an integral part of Los Hombres, as has every member. It's been a fun band to work with, and will continue to be."