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Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2012)

Publication: AllAboutJazz.com
Author: Mark F. Turner
Date: July 31, 2012
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Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Publication: Offbeat
Author: John Swenson
Date: August 1, 2012

It’s been roughly 100 years since the uniquely American music that came to be known as jazz was being codified on the streets of New Orleans. This music has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changing times, evolve into different forms and eventually migrate to all parts of the globe. It also has such malleability that cultural historians have been arguing about how to name it for more than half of its lifetime. Branford Marsalis, always a glib thinker, doesn’t quibble about nomenclature. In his refreshingly direct manner, Marsalis titled his new album Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes.

The music has produced an unending string of virtuoso players, which creates its own dilemma. No matter how well you play your instrument(s), someone else out there is as good or better, so becoming top dog is not only about technique and chops but about intangibles like vision, attitude and emotional depth. One of the things that set Marsalis apart is his fearless attitude, his willingness to let the music carry him wherever it will. If he had only taken his diploma from the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers College of hard bop and led his quartet, he would almost certainly be a lesser figure than he is today. But Marsalis pushed his music into unfamiliar, some would say unworthy, areas— joining Sting’s band, taking over the musical director’s chair for the Tonight Show, jamming with the Grateful Dead and forming the hybrid band Buckshot LeFonque.

Meanwhile he worked hard at both composition and concept. On one hand he’s developed an ambitious program to play with European-style “classical” orchestras; on the other he’s taken on the legacy of John Coltrane, performing his version of American classical music by recording A Love Supreme. He ran the Columbia Jazz A&R department long enough to sign the brilliant saxophonist David S. Ware, but stayed only long enough to realize the only label he could work with was his own. Accordingly, he left and formed his own imprint, Marsalis Music.

In this larger context, Marsalis is able to treat his quartet as the sounding board for his ideals, the roots of a vision that encompasses a larger world. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 9th, 2012 — 09:46am

Branford Marsalis shows no fear at SummerFest

Publication: UT San Diego
Author: James Chute
Date: August 9, 2012

You have to give Branford Marsalis credit: he has absolutely no fear.

It was probably pretty scary when he joined Art Blakey’s famed Jazz Messengers while still a student. And he undoubtedly he had some frightful moments while musical director of the Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” Then there were the times he performed with the Grateful Dead. Read more »

Branford Marsalis + "Treat It Gentle"

Publication: The Revivalist
Author: Eric Sandler
Date: August 6, 2012

Today we are extremely excited to release the video for “Treat It Gentle” from the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s new release Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, out 8/7 on Marsalis Music. The song, featuring influence from the great Sidney Bechet, captures the recording process for the song while encompassing amazing performances from Marsalis, Justin Faulkner, Joey Calderazzo, and Eric Revis.

Moreover, we are bringing you an in-depth interview with Branford Marsalis to bring together the story of the album as well as his thoughts on jazz music today. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard to fight the sheer intellect and experience with which Marsalis speaks. Read on to delve into the alway engaging insights of Mr. Marsalis.

Visit The Revivalist to view the video for “Treat It Gentle.”

We are releasing your video for “Treat It Gentle” today. Can you tell me about the process of recording and how that song came together on the record?

It’s a song that I wrote last summer. I’d been listening to a bunch of Sidney Bechet and I just wrote it in my head. A couple of songs that we wanted to put on the record didn’t sound very good; they didn’t work out well. So I just said, “Oh, I’ve got this song that I wrote.” They asked where it was, but I hadn’t written it out so I took 20-minutes and wrote out the changes for them.

You are very focused on the songs with this record. How important was the songwriting process and reaching the emotion with each song?

Well the songwriting isn’t really important; the song is important. I don’t have this obsession with writing my own material. A lot of guys want to be called composers, you know. But if you’ve ever read a score by Mahler or Wagner, you would know for a fact that I don’t compose, I write tunes. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 05:14pm

Branford Marsalis Quartet - Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2012)

Publication: Something Else!
Author: Nick DeRiso
Date: August 4, 2012

f you’ve often felt that saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ studio recordings failed to reflect the intensity and humor of his live appearances, this MF is for you.

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, due on August 7, 2012 from Marsalis Music, telegraphs its almost offhanded sense of straight-ahead propulsion right in its very title — a humorous suggestion from the eldest of the Marsalis family of jazz performers that ended up sticking. Featured are a string of original band compositions, along with two covers — one from Thelonious Monk (“Teo”) and another dating back to the 1930s (the Sidney Bechet bonus track). Along the way, Marsalis and Co. have captured the fervor of a classic blowing-session — starting with the album’s percolating opener “The Mighty Sword,” and not often letting up through eight subsequent tracks.

“Brews” is somehow both blues and textural, even while sneaking in a few Rollins-ish quips. “Whiplash” lives up to its billing, with a rhythm that rumbles along like a rising summer storm amid an exhilarating series of runs from Marsalis. Then there’s “Teo,” with its classic downtown-traffic stops and starts.

That’s not to say Marsalis hasn’t retained his gentle way with a ballad.

He unfurls an eloquent romanticism on soprano during “As Summer Into Autumn Slips,” explores a deeply emotional place on “Maestra” and then switches to a frisky but yet still honeyed tenor for “My Ideal.” Marsalis tips a hat to his roots as a New Orleans native too, both with the briskly imaginative “Endymion” (one of the signature krewes in the annual Mardi Gras parades) and, of course, with the smooth yet distinctive Bechet number.

But there’s no less a sense of focus, no less a sense of commitment. By the time it’s over, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes has through sheer force and wit finally captured the winking intelligence — really, the loose sense of serious fun — that’s always been part of Marsalis’ stage show. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 02:08pm

Branford Marsalis Quartet – Four MFs Playin’ Tunes – Marsalis Music vinyl or CD – Marsalis Music

Publication: Audiophile Audition
Author: Robbie Gerson
Date: August 2, 2012

Superlative jazz album…digital or vinyl.

With a resume as varied as Branford Marsalis, there is a world of inspiration to influence his musical journey. He has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sting, Bruce Hornsby, Shirley Horn, Bela Fleck, Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove and many, many others. His family is the closest thing to jazz royalty, and have always represented the best of New Orleans. But for the latest release by his quartet Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, his focal point originated from a comment from legendary band leader/mentor Art Blakey. When asked to describe jazz in one word, Blakey retorted… ”intensity, intensity, intensity”.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet used this mantra in their newest release. Returning are Marsalis (soprano and tenor saxophone), Joey Calderazzo (piano) and Eric Revis (bass). Justin Faulkner, the youngest member (who joined in 2009) takes over on drums. In a divergence from usual marketing, a double-disc 180-gram audiophile album was released in April to coincide with National Record Day. [Not 45 rpm but spread-out grooves…Ed.] Now there is also an audio CD, and fans of either digital and analog music can get a wonderful dose of great jazz. As the opening Latin-tinged piano chords ring on “The Mighty Sword”, the inherent cohesion among these talented musicians is exceptional and drives the music. The opening track, “The Mighty Sword”, Marsalis slides in gracefully with his trademark soprano. Chemistry may be an overused description in music, but not here. Newcomer Justin Faulkner is a furious drummer and keeps the hard bop intensity going. Calderazzo delivers a brilliant, percolating solo. Marsalis follows with another compelling run. On the next track (“Brews”) a bluesy urban vamp (almost West Side Story) features an ensemble that intermingles fearlessly. The transition into a grittier aesthetic is seamless. The sound of the group is fresh and original. After another superlative piano solo, bassist/composer Eric Revis adds a loping bass before the piece morphs back to its initial melody. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 10:22am

Branford Marsalis Quartet, 'Four MFs Playin' Tunes'

Publication: Boston Globe
Author: Siddartha Mitter
Date: August 7, 2012

That sure is a silly album title — it’s amusing now, but how will it sound some years down the line? This is an issue because “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” may have some staying power: a tight set of well-slung tunes that show the elements of a classic quartet outing in nice balance. In recruiting 20-year-old Justin Faulkner to the drummer’s chair, Branford Marsalis injected his quartet with fresh spirit; a lithe, quizzing dialogue between Faulkner and pianist Joey Calderazzo prevails throughout, and especially on the second half of “Whiplash,” the energetic centerpiece. A spiffy take on Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and a lovely Sidney Bechet homage, “Treat It Gentle,” establish lineage; other highlights include an angular blues, “Brews,” by bassist Eric Revis, and Calderazzo’s searching ballad “As Summer Into Autumn Slips.” The album’s approach is familiar, conservative perhaps, but the music has soul — particularly when Marsalis wields the soprano sax — and the net effect, title aside, is wholly satisfying. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 10:59am

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Publication: Burning Ambulance
Author: Phil Freeman
Date: August 7, 2012

Since the dawn of the millennium, Branford Marsalis‘s quartet has been steadily turning out albums that, without ever making landmark statements, nevertheless push restlessly against the strictures of modern jazz. In a way, this album, which introduces new drummer Jason Faulkner, is a bookend to the group’s first release, 2000′s Contemporary Jazz, which introduced pianist Joey Calderazzo to the lineup following the death of Kenny Kirkland, who’d worked with Marsalis (and his brother Wynton) since the 1980s. Like Contemporary Jazz, its title—Four MFs Playin’ Tunes—is an emphatic statement of purpose not unlike Ornette Coleman‘s This is Our Music or Thelonious Monk‘s Monk’s Music.

The actual music offers a similar line-in-the-sand challenge to the listener. Four MFs begins with three straight pieces featuring Marsalis on soprano saxophone, an instrument that can ruin a jazz record quicker than any other (even the bagpipes are better—seek out the work of Rufus Harley). Still, it must be said that Marsalis’s voice on the soprano is instantly identifiable, and more enjoyable than many of his squawking, squiggling, circular-breathing peers. And the band behind him is terrific. Calderazzo is a McCoy Tyner-ish pianist, spinning out baroque swirls of notes with a lightning-fast right hand; Eric Revis‘s bass is thick and human, always bolstering and almost never intruding; and Faulkner is a ferocious drummer, slamming the kit around with the fury and boundless energy that only a 20-year-old can muster. But for all the ballistic power he displays on burnout tunes like “Whiplash,” he’s just as willing and able to pull back and sensitively accompany a ballad like “As Summer into Autumn Slips” (another soprano tune, but, again, a forgivable one given the beauty of Marsalis’s handling of the melody). Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 09:35am

Branford Marsalis' saxy 'MFs'

Publication: USA Today
Author: Steve Jones
Date: August 7, 2012

Marsalis has always been one of the more accessible jazz musicians, and this latest offering from his tightly-knit band is up to its usual high standards.

Joining Marsalis are pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis, but this is their first album without drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, who left in 2009 after more than 20 years in the group. Drummer Justin Faulkner, who has played concert dates with them for the past three years, makes his recording debut with the quartet.

The Calderazzo composition The Mighty Sword kicks things off in energetic fashion and establishes the conversational interplay between the musicians that is evident throughout the album. The pianist also contributes the lovely As Summer Into Autumn Slips and both Marsalis (Whiplash, Endymion, Treat It Gentle) and Revis (Brews, Maestra) offer originals of their own.

The band presents a variety of moods, but there is always a certain joy in the music they make. Read more »

Four MFs Playin' Tunes— Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: JazzTimes
Author: Scott Albin
Date: July 31, 2012

The unassuming title of this CD doesn’t do justice to the music contained therein. This is not a case of casual acquaintances getting together to have fun jamming on commonly known standards, but rather this is music played with purpose, direction, artistic integrity, and passion by four outstanding musicians who share some history together. Bassist Eric Revis was first heard on the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s 1999 Requiem CD, while pianist Joey Calderazzo replaced the late Kenny Kirkland for the 2000 release of Contemporary Jazz. Drummer Justin Faulkner joined the group in 2009 upon the departure of Branford’s longtime associate Jeff “Tain” Watts, and the now 20 year-old Faulkner makes his debut with the quartet on Four MFs. The extremely talented young drummer adds a certain spark that raises the quality of the music from the category of excellent to the rarefied air of the extraordinary. This just may be the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s best recording to date.

Calderazzo leads off “The Mighty Sword” with a solo playing of his swirling Latin-flavored theme with its catchy three-note hook, which is then repeated by Marsalis on soprano. The pianist then takes flight with a propulsive solo that nearly takes your breath away in its persistent invention. Revis and Faulkner are in inspiring lock-step with him, as they are with Marsalis for his equally intense, probing improv. Anyone not already a huge fan of Faulkner’s after his impressive display of power and flexibility on this initial track simply isn’t listening. “Brews” is a Revis blues that sounds at first like Steve Lacy playing one of his quirky tunes influenced by Thelonious Monk. Marsalis’ soprano solo, however, is much more voluble and outgoing than what Lacy would ordinarily produce. Calderazzo’s solo cleverly toys with the thematic and rhythmic elements of the tune, while Revis’ bass exploration offers a concise insight into his piece.

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Submitted by Ben on August 2nd, 2012 — 12:21pm