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Branford Marsalis Quartet: 'Just' Playin' Jazz

Publication: Martinez News-Gazette
Author: Gordon R. Webb
Date: September 30, 2012

Fellow musicians, critics and the listening public alike must have thought jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis had lost his mind back in 2009, when he hired 18-year-old Justin Faulkner to replace Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. After all, Watts ā€“ regarded by many as the preeminent jazz drummer of his generation ā€“ had been in Marsalis’ quartet for nearly a quarter century and Faulkner was still in high school! But as we all know, there is a fine line between genius and insanity, and as it turns out, Marsalis’ decision was crazy-smart.

It was a sure thing!” says Marsalis. “I heard him play a slow blues and that was it … I knew it. He understood how to groove, and that the key to swinging isn’t in the beats you play, it’s the space in-between the beats … and he had a great left hand. The kid was raw, but the potential was there and I knew we could teach him everything else.”

After a two year jazz ed incubation period, Marsalis ushered Faulkner and longtime collaborators Joey Calderazzo (piano, since 1999) and Eric Revis (bass, since 1997) into a Durham, N.C., church last October, to record tracks for a new album. The results were released in August 2012 on CD and vinyl, entitled “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music).” But please don’t let the off-hand title fool you into thinking the new record is some half-hearted jam session, because this is serious, modern jazz, spiritedly performed at an extraordinarily high level. The title comes from there being no overall concept or theme involved in the making of “Four MFs Playin‘ Tunes.”

Our concept is just to play jazz,” says Marsalis in the overview promo video. “Learn 100 years of it … and play whatever.”

Every moment of “whatever” has a refreshingly loose, living-in-the-moment feel, but it’s a well-rehearsed spontaneity that comes from years of building trust on the bandstand. Read more »