Branford Marsalis



Center Named for Legendary Pianist and Educator Will Serve the Upper Ninth Ward and the Wider New Orleans Community

Musicians’ Village, Upper Ninth Ward, New Orleans, LA – August 8, 2011:  On August 25, 2011, as the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, one of the most positive responses to the catastrophe that devastated New Orleans will be unveiled – The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.  Located at 1901 Bartholomew Street in the heart of the Musicians’ Village in the Upper Ninth Ward, and named for one of the city’s most influential pianists, educators and living legends, the Center will serve as a state of the art facility for the preservation and ongoing development of New Orleans music and culture.
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Iconic Marsalis Family To Release A Live Album, "Music Redeems"

(JUNE 14, 2010)-  Marsalis Music and Redeye distribution are proud to announce the release of a rare new album by New Orleans’ own Marsalis family August 24, 2010 entitled “Music Redeems.” Read more »

Classical or Jazz? Branford Marsalis bridges both worlds of music in Allentown Symphony Orchestra ‘Opening Gala’

Publication: Bethlehem Press
Author: Paul Willistein
Date: October 14, 2016

The 2016-17 season-opening Allentown Symphony Orchestra classical music concerts will be long-remembered for a Lehigh Valley world premiere by a well-known musician, band leader and composer.

Branford Marsalis and the Allentown Symphony perform Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” in an updated transcription of the work.

Marsalis headlines the “Opening Gala” for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra ”Classical Series,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 and 3 p.m. Oct. 16, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The program, conducted by Diane Wittry, Allentown Symphony Orchestra Music Director, in addition to Marsalis performing Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” and Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 Aria (Cantilena) and Dansa (Martelo), includes Villa-Lobos’ Sinfonietta No. 1 (“A memoria de Mozart”), and Beethoven Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”).

The Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” work on the Allentown Symphony concert program has a special place in the repertoire of Marsalis, who grew up in a household filled with music in Breaux Bridge, La. His mother, Dolores, is a jazz singer and substitute teacher. His father, Ellis, is a pianist and music professor. His brothers Jason, Wynton, Ellis III and Delfeayo are also jazz musicians. The New York Times described the Marsalis family as “jazz’s most storied living dynasty.”

“The piece [‘Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra’] is on the first classical record I ever got. I played the piece and liked it and didn’t like it,” Marsalis says during a phone interview the day before he turned 56 on Aug. 26.

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Submitted by Courtney on October 17th, 2016 — 11:30am

Branford Marsalis, coming to Allentown, swings from jazz to classical

Publication: The Morning Call
Author: Steve Siegal
Date: October 8, 2016

When Branford Marsalis performed Villa Lobos’ Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra for his first time back in 2008, you’d think it would have been a cakewalk for the multiple Grammy-winning, Tony-nominated, NEA Jazz Master saxophonist.

After all, Marsalis had worked with a roster of who’s who in the music world — he toured with Herbie Hancock, recorded with Miles Davis and performed with Sting, Phil Collins, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and a host of other icons.

But classical music proved a formidable nut to crack.

Nine years ago I felt like I was treading in the Pacific Ocean after the boat had sunk and the water was just above my nose,” says Marsalis, 56, speaking from his home in Durham, N.C. “When you’re a defensive player not trying to make mistakes, it means you’re not making music. It took a long time for my brain to start to slow down — only then can you make musical decisions not based on survival.”

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Submitted by Courtney on October 17th, 2016 — 11:10am

Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling: Upward Spiral review – master saxophonist meets great jazz vocalist

Publication: The Guardian
Author: John Fordham
Date: August 4, 2016

Branford Marsalis has mastered most tricks of the sax-player’s trade – traditional song-playing lyricism, an advanced post-Coltrane technique (lately coupled with a classical one), and long experience of playing with singers, notably Sting in the 90s. All that colours this memorable meeting between Marsalis’ quartet and Kurt Elling, one of the best jazz vocalists on the planet. Elling mixes his signature rhythmic hipness with (slightly stagey) jive-talk on the Porgy and Bess classic There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York, lets loose his Mark Murphy-inspired scatting ingenuity on Rollins’ Doxy, and illuminates, with unselfconscious poignancy, the downbeat intensity of Sting’s Practical Arrangement. 

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Submitted by Courtney on August 5th, 2016 — 11:06am

Music Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet with Special Guest Kurt Elling – ‘Upward Spiral’

Author: Jack Goodstein
Date: June 3, 2016

As explained in the notes on the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s album Upward Spiral (featuring Kurt Elling), this is truly a collaborative effort. Everything about the album, from the instrumental musicians’ desire to work with a vocalist, to the choice of that vocalist—although when that choice is Kurt Elling what other choice is there—to the choice of material, is the result of “serious musical debate” creating what Marsalis calls “a true partnership.”

“I usually reject the word ‘collaboration,’” Marsalis explains, “because it implies a third thing from that which each collaborator does well. I don’t need a collaborator to do what I normally do, and Kurt doesn’t, either.” The idea for the new album was to get together to do something different. “The goal here, even though he sings lyrics, was to highlight Kurt’s voice as an instrument.” In effect, Upward Spiral was not intended to be just another vocalist fronting just another quartet.

Now while in any artistic endeavor there is often a great chasm between what was intended and what resulted, and in spite what is oft said of good intentions—the Marsalis-Elling intentions are plenty good, and the road they pave could well bridge over any chasm and end at an innovative musical heaven.
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Submitted by Courtney on June 7th, 2016 — 01:20pm

What's On: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Time Out Hong Kong
Author: Joshiah Ng
Date: April 20, 2016

As saxophone colossus Branford Marsalis prepares to play a programme of 20th century works with the City Chamber Orchestra, Josiah Ng sits down with the Grammy award-winner to talk Ornette Coleman and to learn about the music behind the man.

There are few musicians who cross genres and have an intimate relationship with myriad musical styles like Branford Marsalis. Born in New Orleans in 1960, Marsalis first began playing at a young age guided by his father, jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, and supported by his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, all jazz giants in and of themselves.

He first cut his teeth with the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers alongside his brother Wynton, and began touring and performing with classical ensembles in 2008. His career includes collaborations with Dizzie Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, The Grateful Dead and Sting, the formation of hip-hop group Buckshot LeFonque in 1997, and a stint as musical director for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

With work across a spectrum of genres, we attempt to find out what powers the musical spirit behind Branford Marsalis, as well as what listeners can expect when he takes to the stage in Hong Kong.

You started in New Orleans as a musician. What did you acquire from that heritage?
New Orleans is the home of funk and some of the hit records of the 1950s came out of New Orleans. I grew up playing a lot of different stuff and that’s what I loved the most about being from there. We played everything, so whatever style of music I’m playing at the moment, all of those other experiences come through, even in classical music. Oftentimes, classical players will say it’s really unusual the way I play music, that the notes tend to be a little shorter, and where I place the beat is different from where they would place it. But that’s just culture.

Was it difficult to navigate those differences in classical music?
Not really. The hardest part is just practicing enough and learning enough to play the music well. If you are not afraid of your weaknesses, then you can embrace the system and embrace the way that you have to learn. Very gradually, you start to improve. But if you’re a person who is afraid of failure, then it’s more difficult to learn.

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Submitted by Courtney on April 22nd, 2016 — 03:39pm

Branford Marsalis’ first Hong Kong gig – it’s going to be a classic

Author: Robin Lynam
Date: April 16, 2016

Playing French and Russian classical music with a chamber music ensemble is probably not the way most of us would have expected saxophonist Branford Marsalis to make his Hong Kong debut.

A member of New Orleans’ first family of jazz – son to pianist Ellis and elder brother to trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jason, and trombonist Delfeayo – the 55-year-old is also best known as one of the finest jazz reed players of his generation, adept on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones.

He leads a highly successful jazz quartet, and also performs in a duet setting with notable pianists including Ellis Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo and Harry Connick Jnr. Over the last couple of years he has also undertaken a number of engagements performing entirely unaccompanied.

Seen by millions around the world in 1985 playing with Sting and Phil Collins at Live Aid, Marsalis is also a familiar face and sound to late night television audiences from his stint in the early 1990s as bandleader for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Still, he is no stranger to the classical music world. Marsalis made his debut in 2010 with the New York Philharmonic, playing Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone. This is one of the two pieces that he will perform with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong at City Hall on April 27.

The musician says that, and Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche suite, which he has recorded, were the orchestra’s choices for the programme.

“I tend to leave those decisions to the orchestras, because they know their markets,” he says over the phone from his home in Durham, North Carolina.

“All markets are different culturally, and they have a sense of what the audience will appreciate.

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Submitted by Courtney on April 18th, 2016 — 09:51am

Branford Marsalis Remembers Ornette Coleman

Publication: JazzTimes
Author: Branford Marsalis
Date: March 2016 issue

I was 22 years old, maybe 23, when Stanley Crouch brought around a copy of Ornette’s record The Shape of Jazz to Come to Wynton’s house. He put it on, and I went, “Aw, man, turn that shit off. My ears are bleeding.” I hated it. He said, “You just can’t hear it yet. Just hold on to that record a while. I think there’s some shit in there that you could use.” I’m like, “Yeah, OK.” I listened every day, trying to figure out what was good about it. About four months in, I suddenly started hearing the music the way Ornette heard it—and then it was like my brain exploded. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 26th, 2016 — 03:56pm

Branford Marsalis aims to make music with meaning

Publication: The Georgia Straight
Author: Alexander Varty
Date: February 3, 2016

“Busy” doesn’t begin to describe Branford Marsalis’s hectic life. When the Georgia Straight reaches the versatile saxophonist at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, he’s just returned from a European tour, and he’s already packing his bags for the West Coast jaunt that will bring him to Vancouver next week. Sensibly, he’s timed his visit home to coincide with his wife’s birthday, but when we speak he’s also making a pit stop at his haberdasher’s and studying a “ridiculously difficult” orchestral score by composer Gabriel Prokofiev, which he’ll premiere with Florida’s Naples Philharmonic this March.

“Yeah, I’m multitasking,” Marsalis says with a laugh.

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Submitted by Courtney on February 18th, 2016 — 11:46am
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