art blakey

Branford Marsalis: I’m a MF Musician!

Publication: iRockJazz.com
Author: Matthew Allen
Date: June 10, 2013

“I don’t use songs as a vehicle to glorify myself. I’m going to play whatever is required to make the song successful.” These are the words of Branford Marsalis. He’s a man that understands that it’s not all about him. Considering the big names he’s played with from Sting to Gang Starr, and all the hit songs he’s played on, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t gotten a big head, but the truth is that in the realm of jazz, it’s easy for some to get caught up in their own ideas and try to show them off to whomever is listening. Marsalis, however, takes no part in that line of thinking, and it’s a main reason why he’s been as successful as he has and why he continues to grow and educate others in that the music is more important than the musician.

Marsalis has long considered himself as a musician rather than as a saxophonist. In his mind, there is a big difference between the two in that a musician is someone that knows what it takes to make a song reach its highest potential, even if it means not playing as fast as one can or as many notes as is possible. “For the instrumentalist, the instrument is the center of their life; for a musician, the music they play is the center of their life,” Marsalis explains to iRockJazz. “In order to play music and communicate with people you have to have something in common with people. Most people don’t spend eight hours a day or four hours a day in a little cubicle working on complicated devices to play on stage. ”

Marsalis spent his childhood playing in funk bands as part of the horn section and grasped the concept of knowing his role. This method of thinking led him to lend his instrument saxophone to some of the biggest recordings of the late 21st century, such as Shanice’s pop smash “I Love Your Smile” and Public Enemy’s iconic anthem “Fight the Power.” “First of all, I don’t go up there playing jazz solos. I employ jazz sensibilities and it’s unique and it’s different in the way it sounds, but I understand my role in that situation.”

Joyful intent

Publication: The Jerusalem Post
Author: Barry Davis
Date: August 8, 2013

Branford Marsalis is one of the jazz fraternity’s brightest stars and clearest thinkers. The 52- year-old Grammy Award-winning saxophonist will bring a wealth of life experience, as well as scintillating musicianship, with him when he performs at this year’s Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat.

Marsalis will appear on August 20 and 21 with his quartet of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bass player Eric Revis and 21-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner.

Marsalis comes from one of the great jazz families. A native of New Orleans, he has several jazzplaying siblings – including muchfeted trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jason and trombonist Delfeayo – and his 78-year-old father, Ellis, is an iconic pianist and educator. As such, Marsalis got an early start to his musical path in life, although he did not feed off an exclusively jazz-oriented sonic diet.

“Back in those days there was FM radio, and they hadn’t yet worked out how to be commercial,” he recalls. “I heard the full version of “The Court of the Crimson King” [from the 1969 debut LP of British prog rock band King Crimson] and Led Zeppelin and all sorts of great rock music on FM radio. The approach to what could be played on the radio back then on FM radio was different.” But jazz was a constant presence in his early years too, primarily through his father’s influence.

As a young artist plying his way through the ranks, Marsalis benefited from the invaluable experience of working with jazz masters from his father’s generation and before. His incipient skills were honed while performing sideman duties with iconic trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and, along with brother Wynton, during a berth in powerhouse drummer Art Blakey’s long-running Jazz Messengers troupe. Blakey not only helped to guide the young reedman’s musical expression, but he also imparted some of the wisdom he accrued during his career at the pinnacle of the jazz pile.
Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2013 — 01:17pm

Branford Marsalis Talks Muffulettas, The Tonight Show, and Jazz

Publication: Maxim
Author: Alexa Lyons
Date: March 27, 2013

We caught up with renowned jazz musician Branford Marsalis just before his current tour (his first stop being at Jazz at Lincoln Center next week), and subjected him to the same 10 questions we always ask everyone.

How did you first get into music?
When you grow up in a city where society values music as much as they value football, it’s easy to make that choice.

How did you get into playing the saxophone?
I was playing clarinet and piano in an R&B band that was doing a weekly talent show. I was really sick of carrying around a 110 lb. clarinet at the age of 14, so I talked a good friend of mine into becoming the piano player so I could switch to saxophone.

Who were your musical inspirations growing up?
Everybody was my music inspiration growing up. Earth Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Stevie Wonder. They wrote great tunes. Sometimes the songs that weren’t hits were better than the ones that were.

What about modern mainstream artists? Do any of them do it for you?
It serves a different purpose. The Beatles were the first band to make really, really large sums of money playing pop music, and that was in the late ‘60s. So when all of these bands were playing in the ‘50s, learning how to play music, The Beatles included, there was no template to say “we’re gonna go become stars and make piles of money.” They were doing it because they loved to do it. Now there is a template for using pop music as a vehicle to win the lotto. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 29th, 2013 — 10:42am

Four MFs Playin' Tunes: Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: Jazztimes
Author: Thomas Conrad
Date: October 4, 2012

Branford Marsalis is onto something here. In press notes, he explains, “We need to quit thinking of songs as vehicles and think of them as songs. … What we are trying to do is figure out the emotional purpose of each song … and then play according to that purpose.” Marsalis’ bands have always had chops to burn. Few ensembles have used songs as “vehicles” with more outrageous technical prowess. But often, in concert and on record, they paraded virtuosity at the expense of pacing. Art Blakey’s one-word description of jazz was “intensity.” Sometimes Marsalis believed it too much.

The new album is different because it contains more focused, unified development of specific song forms. There is still rarefied blowing by Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxophones and Joey Calderazzo on piano. But discipline creates a new musicality. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 4th, 2012 — 09:58am

Branford Marsalis talks about his famous family, stardom and playing with Westchester Philharmonic

Publication: LoHud.com
Author: Latoya West
Date: May 17, 2012

Branford Marsalis has accomplished great things since he first picked up the saxophone. He has played with some of the world’s greatest musicians, led the “Tonight Show” band, won Grammy Awards and composed music for Broadway shows.

Now, one of the shining stars of “jazz’s first family,” is coming to Westchester to play with the Westchester Philharmonic as they close out their 2011-2012 season at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College this weekend.

“I have a couple pieces I am going to play,” he tells us. “I’m going to learn a lot and I’m going to have a good time.”

Before you go to the show, here are six things you might not have known about the man behind the saxophone.

1. In Branford’s opinion, he didn’t really grow up in a musical family.
Sure, his older brother Wynton Marsalis is a superstar in the world of jazz. And yes, music seems to be in his family’s DNA. But Marsalis says he didn’t grow up in a “musical family” as most people would assume. “That’s the myth and you can’t stop the myth sometimes,” he says. “I grew up in a regular family with too many kids arguing and fighting, driving mom crazy…with fraternal football games that often turned bloody. Our memories as kids weren’t about us sitting around practicing all day. I mean Wynton practiced a lot, starting when he was 13. But that was his choice.”

2. Contrary to media reports, there was never any sibling rivalry between him and Wynton.
“As far as music goes, we don’t play the same instrument, so what would be the reason for the rivalry?” Marsalis says. But that doesn’t mean the brothers never had tension as they defined their individual career paths. “ Wynton was upset when I left his band to join Sting’s band and then the media started talking about a rivalry,” Marsalis recalls. “But it was less of a rivalry and more of a profound ideological disagreement, which over time resolved itself as those things often do among family members.”

3. He wanted to be a history teacher.
“I was going to school majoring in history. I wanted to be a school teacher,” Marsalis says. But he credits his father for talking him into pursuing his music dream at age 19. “He said when you’re married with kids, you don’t want to be sitting around wondering if you could have done it,” Marsalis recalls. “So I moved to Boston for 1 1/2 years and went to the Berklee School of Music and then I went to New York after that. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on May 18th, 2012 — 02:22pm