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'Well tempered' Marsalis brings jazz, pop, Baroque to Lexington stage

Publication: Kentucky.com
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: October 23, 2014

The true charm of the new Branford Marsalis album In My Solitude isn’t its meshing of jazz and classical genres, although the tightrope walk the celebrated saxophonist takes between the two is quite fascinating.
 
No, the most arresting aspect to the live recording, which will be released Tuesday, is its sound. With no accompaniment whatsoever, save for the acoustics of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the music of Marsalis sounds ancient — ghostly, even.
 
It could be the Wayne Shorter-like expression he conjures on soprano sax during the album-opening take on Steve Lacy’s Who Needs It or the luscious warmth that envelops I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together (the closing theme music from The Carol Burnett Show) or the glorious echo that surrounds all 10 tunes with a subtle, timeworn sheen.
 
On first listen, In My Solitude recalls the otherworldly recordings the great Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek cut for the European ECM label, especially the glorious works where he replaced a conventional rhythm section with the magnificent vocal command of the Hilliard Ensemble. True to ECM form, the resulting music leaned neither to the Hilliards’ love of tone and classical nuance or the Nordic blasts of improvisational chill that were earmarks of Garbarek’s playing.
 
What those records discovered was a fascinatingly stark musical world in between where the unison playing sounded like it had traveled through centuries from a land equally distant.
 
Marsalis’ playing on In My Solitude isn’t as removed or unsettled as Garbarek’s, but it’s just as beautifully indefinable. 

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 23rd, 2014 — 02:15pm

Branford Marsalis - In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral (2014)

Publication: Something Else!
Author: Nick Deriso
Date: October 7, 2014

Never one to shy away from a big moment, Branford Marsalis brought his saxophones — and nothing else — to one of jazz’s most iconic settings for what would become his first-ever unaccompanied performance and album.
 
The results, recorded in 2012 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and due October 21, 2014 via Marsalis Music-Okeh Records, doesn’t supercede Duke Ellington’s initial 1960s-era Sacred Concert — held there, as well — so much as endeavor to expand the vocabulary of that stirring triumph.
 
Ellington, back then, was focused on blending jazz, black gospel and classical into a kind of large-scale, yet intimate tapestry of emotion. Marsalis, as evidenced by his single-instrument vehicle, is crafting more in miniature on In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral — but at the same time, pushing in his own way to blur the lines between post-bop jazz and contemporary classical. In place of the sacred, he delves into modernity of free-form improv. As such, this won’t translate for fans who’ve come to his music via tandem collaborations in pop music.
 
In fact, In My Solitude works diligently away from those expectations, as Marsalis tracks deeper into melody, and then into far more individualistic asides, while moving determinedly away from the bawdy shower of notes associated with rock and R&B. His work here, then, is apt to recall Sonny Rollins or Sam Newsome more than, say, Sting.
 
Submitted by Courtney on October 8th, 2014 — 10:07am

Going for Baroque: Branford Marsalis, chamber group in Seattle on Oct. 4

Publication: The Seattle Times
Author: Tom Keogh
Date: October 3, 2014

A concert of Baroque saxophone: What can that possibly sound like?
 
A Seattle audience is about to find out.
 
So is the saxophonist.
 
“We have not yet started rehearsals, so I can’t presume what we will sound like,” says Branford Marsalis, the Grammy Award-winning musician and composer.
 
The renowned and ubiquitous saxophone player, who has performed with everyone from Miles Davis to Public Enemy to the New York Philharmonic, is kicking off a 20-city tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at Seattle’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts on Saturday (Oct. 4).
 
In an email interview days before Marsalis and the 50-year-old ensemble began rehearsing, the leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet looked ahead to a Meany program of early music from across Europe. The bill includes works by J.S. Bach, Henry Purcell, Tomaso Albinoni, Louis-Antoine Dornel and others.
 
“All of the pieces are outside my comfort zone, and I relish the challenge,” Marsalis says. “That said, I’m really digging the French Baroque stuff.”

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Submitted by Courtney on October 7th, 2014 — 10:52am

Twin Cities Jazz Festival is larger than ever, with big names, more stages

Publication: Pioneer Press
Author: Dan Emerson
Date: June 26, 2014

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet recently released an album of new material. So, will Marsalis and his mates be playing music from “4 MFs Playin’ Tunes” when they perform Friday evening in Mears Park at the 16th annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival?

That will depend on how we feel,” said Marsalis, who places a high value on the importance of “being in the moment,” and the spontaneous, on-the-fly creativity that is the essence of jazz.

If the three-time Grammy winner plays tunes from the new album at his festival appearance, they may sound somewhat different from the way they were recorded in the studio. Musicians like Marsalis and his mates don’t consider compositions to be static creations — they should evolve and improve over time as they are played live.

Marsalis leads a quartet that has stayed together longer than many modern jazz groups, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and the youngest member, drummer Justin Faulkner. There’s a widely accepted idea in the jazz world that the longer a band stays together the more it develops the ability to collectively and spontaneously create good music,onstage.

But familiarity alone “doesn’t do it,” said Marsalis, who divides his time between the jazz and classical music worlds. A willingness to risk failure is important. 

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on June 27th, 2014 — 09:12am

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Inspiration Maya Angelou recorded her reading of her classic poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” with Branford Marsalis and Buckshot LeFonque in this musical tribute to her talent and the important themes she was able to express so brilliantly.  She will be missed.

Submitted by Ben on May 28th, 2014 — 12:45pm

Melodic Study, Deep Listening and the Importance of Context (Downbeat Master Class by Branford Marsalis)

BM Downbeat Master Class

Submitted by Ben on May 15th, 2014 — 12:26pm

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Lobero Theatre

Publication: Santa Barbara Independent
Author: Charles Donelan
Date: May 8, 2014

“It’s going to get kind of funky tonight,” said Branford Marsalis upon taking the Lobero stage, adding, “and it’s going to be fun.” The artist and his current quartet delivered on both counts, as the group’s 100 minute set flew by, with each extended composition revealing another aspect of this consummate musician’s mastery. The opener, “The Mighty Sword” featured Marsalis on soprano sax, an instrument he wields with a combination of sophistication and power comparable to that of the late John Coltrane, an acknowledged inspiration for much of what this quartet does. Pianist Joey Calderazzo added plenty of funk to this otherwise straight-ahead post-bop blast off.

Three quarters of this extraordinarily cohesive band has been together for decades. The one relative newcomer, drummer Justin Faulkner, is an amazing find, and his playing throughout the night was a revelation. 

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Submitted by Courtney on May 9th, 2014 — 01:21pm

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet delivers knockout punch

Publication: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Richard Scheinin
Date: April 27, 2014

SANTA CRUZ — As the Branford Marsalis Quartet opened its late show Monday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, drummer Justin Faulkner jabbed like a boxer. Hook. Uppercut. Jab, jab, jab. The band’s music was raw and rumbling, almost violent — but played with such scarifying control as to convey a sense of elegance, too. It was Muhammad Ali music: float, sting, deliver the knockout punch.

Composed by Joey Calderazzo, the group’s pianist, the tune was titled “The Mighty Sword,” which tells you all you have to know.

For the next 90 minutes — it was the second of two sold-out shows, preceding a two-night run in San Francisco — saxophonist Marsalis and his group engaged a strategy of virtuosity and cockiness, clarity and clout. It covered a lot of territory — bebop and 1970s Keith Jarrett rubato, as well as a tune associated with Louis Armstrong — but it kept coming back to the power-punch and to its own brand of blowtorch Coltrane intensity. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 30th, 2014 — 11:13am

Branford Marsalis caps his New Orleans Jazz Fest 2014 with a grand family reunion

Publication: The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
Author: Chris Waddington, NOLA.com
Date: April 26, 2014

Saxophone colossus Branford Marsalis knows how to close out a Saturday (April 26) at the New Orleans Jazz Fest: Bring brother Jason and father Ellis onto the Jazz Tent stage for a chilling account of “St. James Infirmary.” Their whiplash rendition opened with a doom-laden bass solo by Eric Revis, and unscrolled with all the darkness that three natives of New Orleans can bring to a dirge that is in their blood.

It was a glorious climax to a program that showcased Branford Marsalis’ powerful working band. In addition to Revis, the quartet includes Joey Calderazzo on piano and Justin Faulkner on drums. Thanks to them, the energy never dropped when Marsalis stepped away from the spotlight.
Read more »

Submitted by Ben on April 28th, 2014 — 10:31am

Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and quartet perform Friday evening

Publiation: Gainesville.com
Author: Jeff Schweers
Date: April 2, 2014

Basketball is probably the last thing you’d expect to talk to Branford Marsalis about, but when talking to the award-winning saxophonist you have to expect the unexpected.

Same goes for his concerts. When he and his quartet come to the Phillips Center on Friday, the audience could be in for a surprise because the band has no setlist and plays according to the room and the audience.

“As soon as we hear the room and the sound with an audience we will know what to play,” Marsalis said by phone while eating breakfast at a cafe in Durham, N. C., before teaching class at North Carolina Central University, where he’s been since joining the faculty in 2005.

At one recent concert the audience wasn’t responding to anything written after 1950, so Marsalis called out to the band “Trad night,” and they played a set of traditional songs. “They were over the moon,” he said of the band. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 2nd, 2014 — 06:09pm