Author: Rich Freedman
Date: March 11, 2012
Yes, Branford Marsalis toured with Sting . Yes, he did two years on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
But, while it might make a good line or two in a lengthy biography, it’s far from who the brilliant saxophonist is. One may as well have found the credits on a cave wall.
For the record, performing with Sting was a good experience. And Leno was a decent chap. But Marsalis, 51, was never the guy to lure the former Police front man onto a recording merely to put “featuring Sting.” Nor was it ever his intention to forever be “that guy who once led the Tonight Show band.”
“One thing I did learn from ‘The Tonight Show’ is that unless you’re on TV, people don’t know who you are,” Marsalis said.
Most folks who have picked up a horn — or even have a mere passive interest in jazz — in the last 30 years likely know of Marsalis. And if it’s not Branford, it’s brother Wynton or the patriarch of the jazz-playing family, Ellis Marsalis.
It’s been a life of jazz — and, more recently, classical — that keeps the father of three motivated. Not that the scene, the industry or his own body haven’t change through nearly 30 recordings as The Lead Guy and more than 50 recordings as a sideman.
Still, touring — including a March 29 date at the Napa Valley Opera House — is “the same as always,” Marsalis said, “the airlines is more of a drag.”
But he continues. The Marsalis Music label he founded in 2002. He won the 2010 Drama Desk Award for “Best Music in a Advertisement Play” in the Broadway revival of “Fences.” And he released, “The Songs of Mirth and Melancholy” duo with Joey Calderazzo in 2011.
These days Marsalis listens to his kids — a 26-year-old son and daughters 11 and 7 — and realizes perhaps it’s good to be 51. Read more »