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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.

Read more »

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

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

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan Bilawsky
Date: August 1, 2012

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis has always exhibited a straight-to-the-point attitude in his deeds and musical actions, so the title for his latest quartet date shouldn’t come as a great shock. His choice of words matter-of-factly proclaims that this music isn’t about highbrow ideals, umbrella themes or hyper-intellectual constructs; this is about four musicians making music and serving the songs.

Jazz aficionados know that his albums are almost always a sure bet for brilliance, but fans of this highly regarded unit may come to this record with trepidation since they’re still bemoaning the departure of longtime drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. Their concern is a valid one in theory, but this music should allay their fears. Drummer Justin Faulkner, making his recording debut with the group, seems to have found his footing while playing with the quartet over the past three years. He comes to the music with confidence and a willingness to do what’s necessary. Some people may have scratched their heads in bewilderment when he joined the group, wondering why Marsalis didn’t go with a seasoned veteran instead, but the answer is right here on this disc. Faulkner’s malleable bearing, creativity and chops make for a killer combination that helps the Branford Marsalis Quartet maintain their standard of excellence in the post-Tain era.

Read more »

Submitted by Ben on August 2nd, 2012 — 12:09pm

Two formidable, famous-name saxophonists

Publication: IndyStar.com
Author: Jay Harvey
Date: July 9, 2012

Branford Marsalis and Ravi Coltrane both have new CDs out. With the oldest Marsalis brother, you have to get past the flippant false modesty of the title of this quartet disc: “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” (Marsalis Music). With Ravi, the remarkably independent son of the most revered post-bop saxophonist, you aren’t asked to react to any display of attitude in order to focus on the music (“Spirit Fiction,” Blue Note).

To take up the Marsalis quartet first, rarely will you encounter such fervent rapport that seems so open-hearted to different kinds of expression. There’s propulsive updated bop to get things rolling (“The Mighty Sword”), close-grained, witty tributes (Monk in “Teo,” with Marsalis doing Charlie Rouse, Sonny Rollins’ prismatic way with standards in “My Ideal” ), poised, haunting ballads (“Maestra” and “As Summer Into Autumn Slips”) and exuberant, fecund virtuosity (“Whiplash” and the Ornettish “Endymion”).

Longtime pianist colleague Joey Calderazzo helps keep the lyricism intact; the love of tunes underlies everything the two kindred spirits play. Eric Revis is an adept, slightly self-effacing bassist, but it’s no doubt the better part of valor not to crowd the Joey-Branford duopoly. Youngster Justin Faulkner on drums is imaginative for such a powerhouse; his churning solo on “Whiplash” is among the disc’s highlights. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 20th, 2012 — 11:39am

Record Store Day Specials and Some Asian Vibes

Publication: New York Times
Author: Nate Chinen
Date: April 27, 2012

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Contrarianism suits the saxophonist Branford Marsalis, though probably not as much as he likes to think. The title of his new album, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes,” hurls a rejoinder to the rarefactions he sees elsewhere in jazz. He’s overstating the point, but maybe that’s the motivation he needed. Anyway, the album is a knockout: hard nosed and hyperacute, tradition minded but modern, defined by the high-wire grace of his working band.

The tunes — mostly by Mr. Marsalis and two of his band mates, the pianist Joey Calderazzo and the bassist Eric Revis — fall in line with the group’s longstanding house style, either ruminative and shadowy (“Maestra”) or intrepid and swinging (“Whiplash”). And the evident commitment in the playing, including that of the fearless young drummer Justin Faulkner, gives the material a strong sense of lift.

For now the album is available only on Marsalis Music as a deluxe double LP: released last week for Record Store Day, it will be available on CD and digital formats on Aug. 7.


For Nate’s other Record Store Day picks, visit the full article here. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 18th, 2012 — 02:33pm

CD: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Rifftides
Author: Doug Ramsey
Date: July 15, 2012

The Marsalis quartet achieves openness without abandoning harmonic guidelines, hipness without complex chord permutations. A saxophone soloist who manages to meld aggressiveness and wryness, Marsalis is at his peak here. The delight that he, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Reavis and young drummer Justin Faulkner find in supporting and surprising one another is likely to also affect the listener. The tunes are by members of the band except for Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and Richard Whiting’s “My Ideal,” the latter with a tenor solo that combines tenderness and wit. A highlight: Marsalis’s “Treat it Gentle,” recalling Sidney Bechet’s passion on soprano, but not his wide vibrato. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 16th, 2012 — 09:31am

World Saxophone Congress preview: Sax maniacs by the sea

Publication: The Scotsman
Author: Jim Gilchrist
Date: July 5, 2012

WITH almost 200 world premieres, the 16th World Saxophone Congress next week in St Andrews promises a wealth of innovation and entertainment

ADOLPHE Sax could never have guessed just what he was unleashing when he patented a design for a curiously-shaped reed instrument in 1846, that his invention would power the music of such diverse creative spirits as Maurice Ravel and John Coltrane; likewise the douce Fife town of St Andrews probably has little inkling of what will hit it next week when some 800 musicians converge on it from around the globe for the 16th World Saxophone Congress.

The ancient stones of the East Neuk metropolis will reverberate to the unbridled sounds of innumerable reeds as the six-day event hosts scores of concerts, recitals, lectures and workshops – including some 200 world premieres – in venues ranging from St Andrews University’s 1,000-seat Younger Hall to the venerable undercroft of its department of medieval history. Part of the 600th anniversary celebrations of Scotland’s oldest university, the event ranges through classical, jazz, contemporary and even folk genres.

“It’s massive,” says Richard Ingham, the event’s organiser and musician-in-residence at the university. “We’ve been working on it since we won the bid to host it in Bangkok three years ago and it’s a great thrill to be bringing it here, with such a cornucopia of concerts and recitals every day.

“I want to show saxophonists from across the world what Scotland and the UK has to offer, and also I want people from the UK to see and hear what other players from all over the world are doing. There’s some amazing stuff going on out there.”

High-profile guests include the renowned American player Branford Marsalis, who will premiere a new concerto for saxophone by Andy Scott with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the opening gala concert on 10 July. Read more »

Jazzfest Review: Marsalis and Calderazzo walk a musical high wire without a net

Publication: Ottawa Citizen
Author: Doug Fischer
Date: June 26, 2012

REVIEW: Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo Duo
NAC Studio
Reviewed Tuesday, June 26

In these penny-pinching times, a cynic might be tempted to say the recent popularity of the jazz duo is simply the result of programmers finding ways to save money. Two musicians come cheaper than a quintet or, heaven forbid, a big band.

Ah, but true or not, the observation misses an essential point: the duo is not only good value for the bean-counters, it’s probably the leanest way to get at the core of jazz.

If jazz at its best is the in-the-moment interplay between musicians, then what’s more basic, more intimate, than an unencumbered encounter between two players at the top of their game — two guys like saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo?

The pair have played together since Calderazzo replaced the late Kenny Kirkland in Marsalis’s powerhouse quartet in 1998. But it’s only been for the past few years than they have also performed as the seamlessly intuitive duo that played two shows at the Ottawa jazz festival Tuesday night.

Their kind of familiarity can lead in two directions: playing what’s comfortable, or taking advantage of the freedom that comes from trusting each other when walking out on a musical high wire without a net.

Happily, Marsalis and Calderazzo have chosen the latter course. Read more »