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A Conversation with Branford Marsalis

Publication: Washingtonian
Author: Sriram Gopal
Date: October 13, 2011

As the eldest son of jazz’s first family, Branford Marsalis is accustomed to finding ways to distinguish himself from other musicians. When the saxophonist shared a bill with trumpeter Terrence Blanchard’s band at the Kennedy Center earlier this year, Marsalis’s subjective approach to harmony and meter set him apart from the more obvious groove of Blanchard’s band. While there were some transcendent moments during his set, there were also stretches that seemed impenetrable, at least to this reviewer. But the notoriously outspoken Marsalis says that this doesn’t bother him in the least, because the music requires a kind of listening with which practiced ears are often unfamiliar. In other words, it’s designed for people, not experts. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 14th, 2011 — 03:00pm

Interview with Branford Marsalis: Fearless lieder

Publication: Capital Bop
Author: Giovanni Russonello
Date: October 11, 2011

Branford Marsalis conveys his thoughts in conversation much as he does as a saxophonist. New ideas emerge with steady self-assurance, boldly and unceasingly. When he pauses he does it for emphasis – not because he has lost his train of thought or needs to reorient himself. If the tabloids could be bothered to expound on the scandals of the jazz world, Marsalis might be their go-to guy for headline-grabbing quotes. He’s called avant-garde legend Cecil Taylor’s demands on his audience “self-indulgent bullshit;” opined that “students today are completely full of shit,” overly coddled and under-criticized; and recently said of contemporary jazz, “There’s so little of it that’s actually good that when it’s good, it shocks me.” Marsalis’ hard-nosed perspective comes from decades spent as one of the most respected jazz saxophonists around, but it’s colored by his 10 years in the soap opera of American popular culture, first as a star in Sting’s touring band, then as musical director of the Tonight Show.

For more than 15 years now, Marsalis has focused once again on jazz, releasing a bevy of stellar post-bop albums and founding his own label, Marsalis Music. His latest record, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a duet with pianist and longtime accomplice Joey Calderazzo, explores the alternately disconsolate and ecstatic world of German classical folk music, or lieder. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 12th, 2011 — 12:49pm

Alma Adentro, Miguel Zenón's new vision for Puerto Rican standards

Publication: State of the Arts, Minnesota Public Radio
Author: David Cazares
Date: September 29, 2011

For the cover photo of his latest CD, the alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón picked a stirring three-decades-old image shot by New York Times writer David Gonzalez. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 30th, 2011 — 03:54pm

Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (2011)

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan McClenaghan
Date: August 24, 2011

The cover photo on alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is of two people dancing in the middle of a boulevard. They are nicely dressed. The man’s coat tail flies and their dance clasp is a passionate embrace, suggestive of a romantic yearning hitched to the side of a good time, a posture suggesting a sense of pride and dignity. And that’s what the music on this release is, in large part, all about.  Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 27th, 2011 — 12:20pm

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (2011)

Publication:   Exystence
Date: September 13, 2011

 When so-called “Latin jazz” comes up in conversation, music or musicians connected to Cuba or Brazil are usually the topic of conversation. While it’s true that Afro-Cuban stylings, bossa nova beats and sizzling samba numbers seem to dominate in this umbrella category, they’re only the tip of the iceberg that is the music of Latin America. Thankfully, some important jazz musicians are helping to broaden the rest of the world’s view on what Latin America has to offer. Pianist Danilo Perez has connected the dots between music from his native Panama and jazz, and alto saxophone star Miguel Zenón is doing the same thing for Puerto Rico. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 27th, 2011 — 11:10am

Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro

Publication: Financial Times
Writer: Mike Hobart
Date: September 24, 2011

 A studio-produced album from the Puerto Rican saxophonist

The pure-toned alto saxophonist captures the romance of his Puerto Rican heritage with clean cadenzas and the sway of a 10-piece wind ensemble – the album is subtitled The Puerto Rican Songbook.

The core pulse is contemporary modern, fuelled by a cracking rhythm section, but the swirl of flutes, woodwind and horns adds authenticity as well as textures, and is impressively integrated into the whole – the studio-produced album was live recorded. Zenón remains the focus, surging through the orchestral layers and burning to a climax.

Submitted by Courtney on September 26th, 2011 — 11:56am

Branford on Bay Area's 7Live

Watch Branford Marsalis interviewed on 7Live and discuss how growing up in New Orleans prepared him for a variety of musical projects later in life.

Submitted by Courtney on September 26th, 2011 — 09:12am

Sax great brings quartet to Yoshi's in SF

Publication: KTVU.com
Date: September 22, 2011

One of the most influential saxophone players of his generation returns to the Bay Area for an extended run of performances at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Grammy award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis has made a career out of ably exploring a number of different musical avenues ranging from swinging straight-ahead sounds to classical to pop and hip-hop. The oldest son of noted New Orleans pianist Ellis Marsalis, Branford and his trumpet-playing brother Wynton are often credited with the early ‘80s resurgence of interest in the traditional hard-bop style of such legends as Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 23rd, 2011 — 09:39am

Miguel Zenón Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Publication: The Alibi
Author: Mel Minter

Date: September 22, 2011

 Though not yet 35 years old, saxophonist Miguel Zenón has already built an impressive, mature body of work that explores the music of his native Puerto Rico through the jazz lens. The latest in this growing oeuvre, Alma Adentro focuses on the Puerto Rican songbook, proffering a breathtaking homage to popular tunes from Tite Curet Alonso, Bobby Capó, Pedro Flores, Rafael Hernández and Sylvia Rexach. The absolute command and freedom of Zenón’s performances, and his perfectly articulated arrangements for his masterful quartet and a backing woodwind ensemble, deftly orchestrated by Guillermo Klein, capture the music’s lyrical urgency and supple romance.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 23rd, 2011 — 09:47am

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet: tour-de-force blend of order and mayhem

September 21, 2011
MercuryNews.com
By Richard Scheinin

During Tuesday night’s opening set by the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, I sat in the front row, directly in front of the drums. This meant experiencing, for the next 75 minutes, the unremitting physical force and inventive flow of 20-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner, whose playing sums up the ethos of this great band: order and mayhem, glued together as one. The order inside the mayhem; the mayhem inside the order.

Branford MarsalisThe quartet — which you can see through Sunday at Yoshi’s-San Francisco — played two sold-out shows at the Kuumbwa, the little Santa Cruz club, where Marsalis’s group always plays as if it’s just won the lottery. This was its first visit to Santa Cruz in over two years; the last time through, Faulkner, straight out of a high school band program in Philadelphia, had just joined the group.

On “Teo,” by Thelonious Monk, Faulkner began Tuesday with the easy bounce-and-snap swing of Monk’s old drummers; someone like Frankie Dunlop. Then he threw in a New Orleans second-line flourish and moved toward a swirling Elvin Jones space, which is where this group lands a lot.

And now Marsalis entered with his solo on tenor saxophone, which he built patiently, even meticulously: Long, long notes, giving way to exhilarating bebop lines, tonguing just about every note, like old-time Sonny Rollins. Then he let loose, escalating into a post-Coltrane blast furnace — and in the middle of this holy-roller mayhem, he and pianist Joey Calderazzo glanced at one another and simultaneously played two or three bars of melody from Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.”

It was surreal, as if they had stepped into an adjoining room. Were they sharing a private joke? Showing off? Or maybe their brains are just linked after 13 years of sharing the bandstand.

A
few observations: Marsalis has a massive sound; he doesn’t need to get anywhere close to a microphone to be heard. Also, he makes the saxophone sound like a woodwind; there’s this rich woodsy-ness to his tone. His delivery is urgent and beautiful. Ditto for bassist Eric Revis. Every note that he plays is a gem — fat tone, perfect pulse, like Jimmy Garrison. He never overplays; he seems to arrive at each note inevitably, as if it is the result of long, silent consideration.
Read more »