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Interview: Ellis and Wynton Marsalis

Publication: NUVO News
Author: Scott Shoger
Date: March 26, 2014

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. — the paterfamilias of the jazz-playing Marsalis clan — says he was “never big on family bands.” Maybe that’s why even after the Marsalis family performed together for the first time during a retirement celebration for Ellis in 2001, they still don’t play as a family all that often. The sole date on their online schedule is their Clowes Hall show. And then they’ll go their separate ways: Wynton with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; Ellis, Branford and Jason with their respective quartets; Delfeayo with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra; spoken word artist Ellis III to wherever it is that he issues his oracular judgments on American life (Wynton will have more on that in a minute).

In short, all the Marsalises lead busy professional and personal lives, so it’s only when Ellis is “interested in doing it,” according to Wynton, that they get together for another show. “He’s at the stage now of his life where we try to get together and touch base with him,” he adds. I talked with both Ellis and Wynton this week: Ellis from New Orleans; Wynton from somewhere on the road between San Francisco and Ames, Iowa (he prefers not to fly when he has a choice). The results are as follow, but a quick bio seems in order:

Born in New Orleans in 1934, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. came up as jazz pianist, playing in a modern style that wasn’t obviously indebted to Dixieland and R&B, before moving into education, eventually teaching on both a high school and university level, notably at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He and his wife, Delores, have six sons, five of whom will perform at Clowes. There’s Branford, an adventurous saxophonist who’s worked with Art Blakey, Sting and the Grateful Dead and briefly served as musical director for The Tonight Show. Wynton, a nine-time Grammy winner, long-time artistic head of Jazz at Lincoln Center and notorious contrarian. Ellis, who contributes spoken word monologues to some Marsalis Family gigs. Trombonist Delfeayo, who has followed directly in his dad’s path in becoming a New Orleans-based educator. And drummer Jason, the youngest Marsalis, who has spent more time performing with his dad than any other son.

Feel free to consult Wikipedia or, hell, the Grove Dictionary of Music for more information; for now, to the interviews!
  

NUVO: So, who calls the shots at a Marsalis Family show? Your dad?

Wynton Marsalis: Yeah, we go along with him, whatever he wants. He sacrificed for us so much, we have so much respect for him that it’s not a problem.

NUVO: Is there any different sort of chemistry when playing with your family vs. playing with other talented musicians?

Wynton: We all grew up listening to our father’s music. But for Branford and I, it’s different because we grew up playing together. We didn’t play with Delfeayo so much because he’s younger than us. And Jason was two when I left home. He’s such a talented musician, with his hearing and the understanding of the concepts of what we play. He grew up playing with my father, so I’m sure there’s a chemistry between them. Read more »

The Marsalis Family to appear with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra at Clowes Hall

Publication: The Indianapolis Recorder
Date: March 20, 2014

A once-in-a-lifetime event will take place at Clowes Memorial Hall on March 29, at 8 p.m. as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs with the Marsalis Family.

Ticket prices start at $50. Tickets are on sale now at the Clowes Hall Box Office, ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-982-2787.

Called ‘the first family of jazz,” The Marsalis Family continues to be the driving force behind jazz education and preservation. In this one-night-only performance, Ellis, Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis will take the stage together and in solo performances with the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Hailed as “an extraordinarily versatile orchestra” by The Los Angeles Times, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is composed of 15 of jazz music’s leading soloists under the leadership of musical director Wynton Marsalis. Drawing from an extensive repertoire that includes original compositions by Marsalis, Ted Nash, and other members of the orchestra, as well as the masterworks of Ellington, Mingus, Coltrane, and other great jazz composers, concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are internationally critically acclaimed. “The finest big band in the world today,” said the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph.

The Marsalis Family story starts in New Orleans, with the birth of Ellis Marsalis Jr. in 1934. Although the city was noted for Dixieland and rhythm-and-blues, Ellis was more interested in the bebop sounds coming from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Read more »

Eric Revis – In Memory of Things Yet Seen (2014)

Publication: Something Else!
Author: S. Victor Aaron
Date: March 17, 2014

The first-call acoustic bass player best known in five words or less as “Branford Marsalis’ bassist since forever” is preparing to release his own led-date In Memory of Things Yet Seen (March 25, 2014, Clean Feed Records). For his fifth one, Revis ditches the piano, doubles up on the saxes and often steps outside. Think Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds quartet with Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers blowing the reeds together.

Revis’ Braxton and Rivers super duo comes in the form of Bill McHenry (tenor) and Darius Jones (alto), perfect choices because they can get chatty like mockingbirds on the free-improv “Hits,” ignite in tandem on the barely-contained Sun Ra number “The Shadow World” and then turn right around and play lyrically around a memorable Revis bass riff on a tender respite from the madness, “Hold My Snow Cone.”

For the drums, Revis calls upon Chad Taylor, forming the same formidable rhythm section that fueled recent records by reedman Avram Fefer, like the Eliyahu album we surveyed a few years ago. Together, these two lay out all the parameters for a song, leaving McHenry/Jones frontline free to articulate harmony and blow their brains outs. They form a runaway train on “Hits,” devise a catchy circular bass/drums figure for the basis of the song “Son Seals” and form the core of “A Lesson Earned” with an irresistible, circular bass riff welded to a rock beat.

Branford himself shows up on a couple of tunes, swelling the ranks of sax players to three unbelievably talented masters. “Unknown” has a theme that’s avant-bop, not too unlike Tristano or Dolphy. After the head, Marsalis peels off to deliver a swerving, swinging solo that traditionally minded, and Jones follows with smooth alto flourishes that finish every statement of his with a rough note. “FreeB” is the rare free improv that Branford participates in, but within that cacophony of moderate wailing, he can be heard making cries of tradition amidst the atonal wails. And, it fits. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 18th, 2014 — 02:48pm

Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis join forces to raise funds for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music

Publication: Nola.com
Author: Erika Goldring
Date: February 5, 2014

It was a daytime luncheon and concert, unusual for the Civic Theatre, but the crowds were just as enthused to be there. It was a benefit for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, located in the Musicians’ Village in the city’s Upper Ninth Ward. The Village was founded by native New Orleanians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, and constructed by Habitat for Humanity, as affordable housing for musicians and to create a sense of shared community.

So whom else would the Center ask, other than Connick and Marsalis, to help raise funds! The concert, on Tuesday (Feb. 4), not only featured performances from Connick — now on TV every Wednesday and Thursday nights for “American Idol” — as well as from Branford Marsalis (his father is Ellis Marsalis), Stephen Walker, Dewey Sampson, Andrew Baham and Ricky Sebastian and students from the Center, among others. Read more »

Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis showcase young musicians

Publication: WWLTV.com
Reporter: Bill Capo
Date: February 4, 2014

NEW ORLEANS — Performing with music legends Harry Connick, Junior and Branford Marsalis was unforgettable for two young musicians.

Two years after opening, the Ellis Marsalis Center in the Habitat For Humanity Musicians Village is providing music education to 200 students, ages 7 to 18.

I think it has exceeded what we thought,” said Harry Connick, Jr. “I mean when Branford and I thought about this, it was just kind of a vague concept.”

The idea that you have 7- and 8-year-old kids playing clarinet and playing violin and playing piano and playing in orchestras,” added Branford Marsalis.

I think it is kind of beyond people’s expectations, at least that’s the way parents communicate to me,” said Ellis Marsalis Center Executive Director Michele Jean-Pierre.

Connick and Branford Marsalis remain committed to New Orleans. They’re also looking at the future, especially where music is concerned.

If they don’t support the center, they basically are not supporting the future generations of musicians that will make New Orleans what it is,” Connick said. Read more »

Doug Collette's Take Five

Publication: Glide Magazine
Author: Doug Collette
Date: December 2, 2013

The Branford Marsalis Quartet/Four MF’s Playin’  Tunes (Marsalis Music): Alternately sultry and scorching, this album belies the casual informality of its title. No doubt inspired by both their extended tenure together and the challenging, memorable original material supplied by pianist Joey Calderazzo, BMQ explore the rhythm and melody of tunes without losing their inner pulse or fundamental motif and, in doing so, the musicians maintain their individual personalities even as they forge a collective persona as the group.

Eric Revis/City of Asylum (Clean Feed): Establishing an intense state of collective concentration with the downbeat that begins the first track, it’s simple to see how Eric Revis has remained a stalwart within The Branford Marsalis Quintet for sixteen years. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 11th, 2013 — 11:51am

SNJO/Branford Marsalis Perth Concert Hall

Publication: Herald Scotland
Author: Rob Adams
Date: September 30, 2013

Wayne Shorter’s reputation as one of the jazz world’s most thoughtful and keenly melodic composers was fully endorsed by this warm, beautifully realised celebration of his art by what one of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s high-profile recent guests described as “one of the best jazz orchestras on the planet” in concert with another jazz luminary, saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

As featured soloist on Shorter’s twin specialisms of tenor and soprano saxophones, Marsalis never tried to emulate his hero, although Shorter’s liking for precise, gnomic phrases possibly influenced his thought processes occasionally. His playing was by turns direct and expansive and always brilliantly cogent and in the spirit of the composition, be it ever so slightly mysterious or downright amiable.

Submitted by Courtney on September 30th, 2013 — 10:58am

Branford Marsalis in Wayne’s world

Publication: The Scotsman
Author: Jim Gilchrist
Date: September 23, 2013

Shorter, 80 this year, has been a hugely influential figure during his various periods with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis, jazz-rockers Weather Report and in his own Blue Note recordings. Marsalis, the 53-year-old scion of a famously musical family, has carved an international reputation of his own, as a powerful and independently-minded jazz player as well as a lyrical interpreter of classical music.

This will be Marsalis’s first collaboration with the SNJO, although he has known its director, fellow-saxophonist Tommy Smith, “forever”. When I ask if he’ll be avoiding slavish replication, he replies: “I’m completely into replicating it. I have the opposite view of most of my jazz colleagues… I don’t do any form of music as a 
vehicle to glorify myself per se.

“A lot of people might say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do Wayne Shorter’s music, but I’m going to be me,’” Marsalis observes drily, citing “Daniel Day-Lewis’s excellent portrayal of Abe Lincoln. Some people go so far as to say it’s almost like he was the man himself. Really?

“As I know from studying drama, the idea is to capture the essence of a person, not every single one of their mannerisms. So when I play Shorter’s music, I’ll try to play the essence of it. I’ve spent so much time studying it that it’s virtually impossible for me not to have his influences coming to bear.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 23rd, 2013 — 09:13am

JazzTimes.com Exclusive: A Conversation with Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis

Publication: Jazztimes.com
Author: Jeff Tamarkin
Date: September 4, 2013

At a party in Istanbul late in April, during the International Jazz Week celebrations, JazzTimes found New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard and saxophonist Branford Marsalis hanging out together in one of the many rooms of the host’s home. We asked them if they’d mind giving us a two-minute quote on the significance of the event and they did. And then they kept on talking—for another half hour. We had our handy digital recorder with us and let them go on, our reporter tossing in the occasional question but mostly just letting them riff. What follows is a verbatim transcript of their sometimes rambling, often hilarious, always astute conversation.

Why is International Jazz Day important?

Terence Blanchard: First of all, it’s amazing that there is such a thing as International Jazz Day. It means that, politically, the music has come a long way.

How do you feel about the event being held in a city such as Istanbul, which is not particularly known for its jazz?

Branford Marsalis: The whole thing about it is outreach. If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you bring it to places that have potential. Putting it in New York was kind of like, what’s the big whoop? Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 4th, 2013 — 03:00pm

Burlington Discover Jazz Fest Builds Upon Community

Publication: Downbeat.com
Author: Jon Ross
Date: July 3, 2013

Dynamic contrast, not needless velocity, grounded Marsalis’ quartet set on June 2, the closing concert of the first weekend. Marsalis, who had last been to the festival in 2009, turned in a wide-ranging and captivating set aided by his exceptional band, which includes drummer Justin Faulkner, an amazing talent who has come into his own as part of the group. Creating a complete ensemble sound and true improvisatory music is at the center of Marsalis’ aesthetic, and throughout the evening he let his bandmates improvise at length, stamping their own personal approach onto his tunes.

To read Jon Ross’ entire roundup of this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, check out Downbeat.com. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2013 — 12:44pm