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Portland Festival, Take Five: Marsalis-Calderazzo Duo, Brubeckians

Publication: Rifftides
Author: Doug Ramsey
Date: February 29, 2012

MARSALIS AND CALDERAZZO

Parts of Brandford Marsalis’s and Joey Calderazzo’s Sunday concert of saxophone-piano duets suggested the atmosphere of a 19th century recital somewhere in middle Europe. The beauty of Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall,” Marsalis’s “The Bard Lachrymose” and the short “Die Trauernde” of Brahms encouraged quiet reflection. These are jazz musicians, however—two of the most adventuresome—and a complete afternoon of stately salon music wasn’t in the cards. The impression they left the capacity crowd in Portland’s Newmark Theater was of good friends enjoying the rewards and risks of spontaneous creation.

Some of the music was from their 2011 album Songs Of Mirth And Melancholy. Calderazzo’s “Bri’s Dance” was, among other things, a reminder of the richness of Marsalis’s soprano sax tone, which is wide and nearly without vibrato. It was also an occasion for Calderazzo to unleash the Bach in his left hand and lead into a round of give-and-take exchanges with Marsalis that gained in both rhythm and precision as the action unfolded. Their performance of “Eternal” was at least as long as the 18-minute one on the 2003 Marsalis quartet album of that name and gave, if anything, an even more intimate tug on the emotions. Calderazzo’s loping 16-bar composition “One Way” has the character of something Sonny Rollins might have thought of in his “Way Out West” days. Marsalis’s tenor playing on it had that playful spirit. Read more »

Two philharmonics feature jazz soloists

Publication: Today’s Zaman
Author: Alexandra Ivanoff
Date: February 28, 2012

Borusan & Branford: 20th century gems

Aside from the celebrity of American saxophonist Branford Marsalis appearing here in a classical program with the Borusan Philharmonic, conducted by Sascha Goetzel, there was another cause célèbre, in my opinion, at the unusual concert at Lütfi Kırdar Concert Hall on Feb. 23.

The most familiar classical composer in the line-up was Sergei Prokofiev, with other, lesser-known works by film composer John Williams, Sally Beamish, and Erwin Schulhoff. The latter, a Czech whose music was banned by the Nazis and who perished in a German concentration camp in 1942, produced a unique body of work in his short life, and some of it was during his time as a prisoner. Two of his extraordinary compositions shared the spotlight with the soloist of the evening.

Marsalis, a jazz musician from a prominent New Orleans family of jazz musicians and who was the first bandleader on television’s “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, is another one of the few cross-genre musicians able to play as stunningly in classical repertoire as jazz. His formidable musicianship, wherein he executed many styles with suave über-control and tonal luster, took the stage not as a celebrity, but very much as a team player. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 28th, 2012 — 01:33pm

Portland Jazz Festival 2012: Branford Marsalis and Joe Calderazzo, a MUSICAL Jazz conversation

Publication: Oregon Music News
Author: Tim Willcox
Date: February 24, 2012

Branford Marsalis. Period. That’s pretty much all you need to say. About as well know as any Jazz musician can possibly be, Mr. Marsalis is no stranger to the limelight that comes from performing around the world with his own various groups or with pop-stars like Sting, not to mention being beamed into millions of homes every night as former musical director of The Tonight Show. The eldest brother of New Orleans’ royal family of Jazz, Branford has remained at the top echelon of Jazz, both as a saxophonist and bandleader for a quarter century.

Joey Calderazzo, while perhaps not a household name, is undoubtedly one of the finest and most well-known pianists in all of Jazz. Mr. Calderazzo came to notoriety and critical acclaim in the late 1980s as pianist for the late, great Michael Brecker. Performing with Brecker for nearly twenty years, Calderazzo was added to Marsalis’ quartet line-up in 1998 after the untimely death of Kenny Kirkland. Since then, the pair have played around the globe thousands of times together in The Branford Marsalis Quartet (BMQ).

They will close out this year’s Portland Jazz Festival on Sunday, February 26, 3pm at the Newmark Theater, $28-$58.

After playing as a duo at various celebrity golf tournaments, the pair booked a gig at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival. Some serious sparks must have ignited during that performance because the two have now teamed up for a duo recording on Marsalis Music, the record label owned and operated by Branford. The resulting album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy is full of beauty, space, intimacy, and longing. It’s truly one of the best duo recordings by any pair of musicians in recent memory. Read more »

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music 2011)

Publication: Latin Jazz Network
Author: Raul da Gama
Date: February 26, 2012

That Miguel Zenón has been recognized as one of the most exciting young alto saxophonists to break into the scene has been known for several years now. So it should come as no surprise when he released a third album, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, in a loosely constructed trilogy that also included Jibaro (2004) and Esta Plena (2009). While these are all truly fine albums, this last one breaks the mould in both style and substance. First there is the sophisticated playing by the young saxophonist; something that is reflected in the gumption of his viscous ideas that devolve into fires that are fanned by both the jazz and Latin idioms. These cover everything from binary, to secondary and tertiary rhythms, fraught with electrifying, complex structures and there is the small matter of polyphony that turns simple melodies into something so exquisite and breathtaking that a shocking gasp seems to be a regular response solo after solo—from saxophone and piano.

Then there is the inspired arrangements of reeds that penetrate the near impervious fabric of the melodies like the tones of water colours spreading not only on the paper score, but on the entire musical canvas as well. The ingenuity of Guillermo Klein is the most important reason for this—if not the only reason for this. Yet this is not a matter of who came up with the idea of such an imaginative underscore, but how well the two men have articulated the invention. And this is why it is important to posit that both artists have played a role in the magnificent score no matter that Zenón is leading the charge. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 27th, 2012 — 10:28am

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo To Perform At The Hobby Center

Publication: MusicDoingGood.org
Date: February 15, 2012

NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist and nine-time Grammy® Award Winner Branford Marsalis joins pianist Joey Calderazzo live, on-stage on March 23, 2012, 8 pm at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall, 800 Bagby St., 77002. The concert is comprised of selections from their latest CD release, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. This performance is one in a series of four benefit concerts for Music Doing Good in Schools, an innovative, interdisciplinary, musical arts, after-school enrichment program for students ages 7 to 18 who want to take their skills to a higher level. Ticket proceeds also go to support Music Doing Good’s Musical Instrument Aid and Scholarship Fund.

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo have mesmerized audiences with their passionate and profound collaboration since the release of their latest album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (© Marsalis Music, 2011). Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 21st, 2012 — 10:46am

MacArthur genius Zenón takes on jazz genius Parker

Publication: Chicago Tribune
Author: Howard Reich
Date: February 20, 2012

Outside of Louis Armstrong, perhaps no musician commands greater reverence among jazz devotees than Charlie Parker. His virtuosity as alto saxophonist, brilliance as improviser and genius as a creator of bebop place him in the pantheon of jazz originals — alongside icons such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Jelly Roll Morton.

Which makes Friday night’s concert by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble — “Ornithology: The Music of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker” — a moment of both possibility and peril. No musician takes lightly the prospect of performing an evening of Bird’s music, due to its inherent technical and artistic hurdles. Yet the musicians who can hold their own in this repertoire emerge as victors, proving that they can address some of the most daunting work ever conceived in jazz.

For this program, CJE artistic director Dana Hall has engaged a singular alto saxophonist who, like Bird, also has looked relentlessly forward in every facet of his art: Miguel Zenón. Winner of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, or “genius grant,” Zenón has been fearless in bringing his Puerto Rican heritage to bear on his jazz compositions and improvisations, particularly in albums such as “Alma Adentro” (the best jazz release of 2011) and “Esta Plena” (an important release in 2009).Yet even Zenón approaches Friday’s event with eyes (and ears) wide open.

Charlie Parker is my greatest inspiration as a saxophone player — anything that involves him entails a large amount of respect,” says Zenón, 35. “You’ve got to be careful how you approach it. … But I’m not going to try to emulate what he played. He’s Charlie Parker, and I’m me.” Read more »

Road Trip! Branford Marsalis + Joey Calderazzo at the Portland Jazz Festival

Publication: Seattle Weekly Blog
Author: Chris Kornelis
Date: February 15, 2012

Last year, Branford Marsalis told Seattle Weekly about “The Problem With Jazz”: why old records sound better than new ones, why the genre feels too much like an exclusive club, and how there’s so little good jazz these days that when he hears something good, “it shocks me.” The interview went viral, sparking myriad Internet debates. Read more »

LIVE: Branford Marsalis (Duo + Quartet) at Proctors, 2/3/12

Publication: Nippertown!
Author: J Hunter
Date: February 3, 2012

I hadn’t known this was an issue until it was pointed out to me by a musician whose opinion (and playing) I deeply respect. Essentially, it boils down to a very simple question: What is the deal with Branford Marsalis when he plays tenor saxophone? When Marsalis plays soprano sax, he is the epitome of precision and expression; however, when he plays tenor he just… well… honks. I closely observed this situation over two sets at Proctors last Friday night. (Well, one-and-a-half sets, if we’re going to be accurate.)

The show was split up between an opening series of duets between Branford and pianist Joey Calderazzo, and a full-band set with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. The duets came from “Songs of Mirth & Melancholy” (Marsalis Music, 2011), which Marsalis and Calderazzo recorded after seeing the potential of such a disc during an impromptu duo show at the Newport Jazz Festival. Although we only heard four tunes before the pair declared an intermission, that relatively short performance displayed the contrast between the thrilling intimacy of the Melancholy material and the full-bore nastiness of the Branford Quartet. It also displayed the skin-tight chemistry Marsalis and Calderazzo share; he’s got that with all his band members, but the relationship between leader and pianist was really under the microscope in this no-frills (and no-safety-net) setting.

After a quick reminiscence by Marsalis on the last time he played Proctors (eight years ago, when the Marsalis Family was on tour), the duo slipped into “La Valse Kendall,” a Calderazzo original that is equal parts classical and jazz, and could make you cry uncontrollably when heard at the right moment. Marsalis’ soprano went right for your soul and did its best to tear the sucker out by the roots, while Calderazzo’s immaculate precision added a real sense of occasion to the piece. Then they switched to Calderazzo’s stride-rich “One Way,” and Marsalis began the first series of honking sounds on tenor. Okay, he wasn’t REALLY honking; what he played was not only damn good, it was entirely appropriate to the piece and the era it recalled. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 02:22pm

Grammy Preview: The Best Albums of 2011 From Top to Bottom

Publication: Huffington Post
Author: Michael Giltz
Date: February 10, 2012

Michael included Songs of Mirth and Melancholy from Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo in his best of 2011 list. Follow the link to check out his other choices.

6. WYNTON MARSALIS AND ERIC CLAPTON Play the Blues / BRANFORD MARSALIS AND JOEY CALDARAZZO Songs of Mirth And Melancholy (trad jazz) Surely the Marsalis brothers hate having all their work linked. Oh well. Wynton has found new purpose and a sense of joy via collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson and now Clapton. Their jam session brings out the best in both of them. (Who knew “Layla” would prove so malleable?) And does anyone in jazz have a more gorgeous tone that Branford? For sheer sonic beauty, it’s the best since Getz. HIs album is also a collaboration and it leans more heavily on melancholy than mirth. Great stuff. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 11:49am

American Stories of Mixed Identity, Explored Through Mixed Media

Publication: The New York Times
Author: Ben Ratliff
Date: February 7, 2012

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It’s been a while since the saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has written a tune that wasn’t about something bigger than itself. Generally, he works without words or straight narrative — his medium is the small-to-medium-size jazz group — but he makes his music embody something: a process, a lesson, an idea.

Mr. Zenón was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and usually his bigger thoughts have arrived in the form of roots-minded albums, like his three records about aspects of his island’s musical culture: “Jíbaro” (2005), about the song form of back-country troubadours; “Esta Plena” (2009), about his island’s voice-and-percussion tradition; and “Alma Adentro” (2011), about Puerto Rico’s 20th-century standards.

On Saturday night at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University he took the next organizational and conceptual step forward into a 90-minute multimedia work, “Puerto Rico Nació en Mi: Tales From the Diaspora.”

Performed for the first time, it involved his quartet, a 12-piece big band and video backdrop; it was commissioned by Peak Performances, Montclair State’s performing arts series. Mr. Zenón hasn’t written for big band before, or done the kind of deep cross-media collaboration going on here, between his music and the work of the video artist David Dempewolf. (Mr. Dempewolf worked on another jazz-related piece several years ago, Jason Moran’s “In My Mind.”) But already the project seems about as good as it could reasonably be in concept and execution. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 8th, 2012 — 10:03am