Branford Marsalis Quartet

Branford Marsalis times two

Publication: Maclean’s
Author: Paul Wells
Date: July 2, 2014

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is playing in Ottawa this Saturday to open the Music and Beyond Festival. In the first half he’ll perform as a soloist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, playing Alexander Glazunov’s concerto for alto saxophone. After intermission the orchestra will clear out and Marsalis will play jazz with his quartet.

He’s appearing more and more often as an orchestral soloist lately, but does he often do this thing where he plays both classical and jazz in the same night? “No, I don’t do it ever, really,” Marsalis told me the other day over the phone from his home in North Carolina. “No one else ever asked me to do that. So it never happened.”

Is it hard to switch between classical and jazz contexts? “It used to be more difficult 10 years ago when I first started playing [classical music], because I had to marshal so much of my brain to focus in on playing. Everything was just so fast, you know. Now that my brain is able to process the information, slow it down a bit so it’s not as bad as it used to be, you know, my focus is better. I don’t feel as overwhelmed in that environment as I did 10 years ago.”

Some people might be surprised that for the three-time Grammy winner, who first rose to public notoriety in his brother Wynton Marsalis’s quintet more than 30 years ago, it’s the classical music that poses a challenge. After all, classical music is written down, you get to rehearse every note before you perform for an audience — what’s the problem?

My question was intentionally naive, designed to provoke, and it worked a charm. “Well, most people that would say that know absolutely nothing about classical music,” Marsalis said. “They don’t understand what it’s like to be in that pit. The similar thing would be, I’ve had the joy of watching people watch soccer and say, ‘What’s the big deal? You run around. You kick a little ball. It’s not like American football where you’ve got to hit people and you’ve got to do this.’ And I say, ‘Well let’s go play.’ I called a friend of mine in California, we joked about it. We went out to play. And none of us was good but we were playing. And he said, ‘I gotta tell you man, I’m humbled. I didn’t think I was going to survive it.’ And I said, ‘Well, that remains to be seen, man. That’s just the first half.’ ” Read more »

Twin Cities Jazz Festival is larger than ever, with big names, more stages

Publication: Pioneer Press
Author: Dan Emerson
Date: June 26, 2014

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet recently released an album of new material. So, will Marsalis and his mates be playing music from “4 MFs Playin’ Tunes” when they perform Friday evening in Mears Park at the 16th annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival?

That will depend on how we feel,” said Marsalis, who places a high value on the importance of “being in the moment,” and the spontaneous, on-the-fly creativity that is the essence of jazz.

If the three-time Grammy winner plays tunes from the new album at his festival appearance, they may sound somewhat different from the way they were recorded in the studio. Musicians like Marsalis and his mates don’t consider compositions to be static creations — they should evolve and improve over time as they are played live.

Marsalis leads a quartet that has stayed together longer than many modern jazz groups, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and the youngest member, drummer Justin Faulkner. There’s a widely accepted idea in the jazz world that the longer a band stays together the more it develops the ability to collectively and spontaneously create good music,onstage.

But familiarity alone “doesn’t do it,” said Marsalis, who divides his time between the jazz and classical music worlds. A willingness to risk failure is important. 

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on June 27th, 2014 — 08:12am

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Lobero Theatre

Publication: Santa Barbara Independent
Author: Charles Donelan
Date: May 8, 2014

“It’s going to get kind of funky tonight,” said Branford Marsalis upon taking the Lobero stage, adding, “and it’s going to be fun.” The artist and his current quartet delivered on both counts, as the group’s 100 minute set flew by, with each extended composition revealing another aspect of this consummate musician’s mastery. The opener, “The Mighty Sword” featured Marsalis on soprano sax, an instrument he wields with a combination of sophistication and power comparable to that of the late John Coltrane, an acknowledged inspiration for much of what this quartet does. Pianist Joey Calderazzo added plenty of funk to this otherwise straight-ahead post-bop blast off.

Three quarters of this extraordinarily cohesive band has been together for decades. The one relative newcomer, drummer Justin Faulkner, is an amazing find, and his playing throughout the night was a revelation. 

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on May 9th, 2014 — 12:21pm

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet delivers knockout punch

Publication: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Richard Scheinin
Date: April 27, 2014

SANTA CRUZ — As the Branford Marsalis Quartet opened its late show Monday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, drummer Justin Faulkner jabbed like a boxer. Hook. Uppercut. Jab, jab, jab. The band’s music was raw and rumbling, almost violent — but played with such scarifying control as to convey a sense of elegance, too. It was Muhammad Ali music: float, sting, deliver the knockout punch.

Composed by Joey Calderazzo, the group’s pianist, the tune was titled “The Mighty Sword,” which tells you all you have to know.

For the next 90 minutes — it was the second of two sold-out shows, preceding a two-night run in San Francisco — saxophonist Marsalis and his group engaged a strategy of virtuosity and cockiness, clarity and clout. It covered a lot of territory — bebop and 1970s Keith Jarrett rubato, as well as a tune associated with Louis Armstrong — but it kept coming back to the power-punch and to its own brand of blowtorch Coltrane intensity. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 30th, 2014 — 10:13am

'An Evening with Branford Marsalis’ at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts

Publication: DC Metro Theater Arts
Author: Marlene Hall
Date: April 13, 2014

Seeing one of Jazz’ masters like Branford Marsalis perform is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I had the honor of watching jazz great Marsalis at George Mason Performing Arts Center Saturday night. Marsalis and his quartet played mostly songs from their new album Four MFs Playin’ Tunes.

Marsalis is a renowned saxophonist and composer. Marsalis is a three time Grammy winner, a 2010 Tony nominee and 2010 Drama Desk Award winner for the music for the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences. He has released more than 20 recordings, including his most recent, 2012’s Four MFs Playin’ Tunes.

I overheard an audience member comment how Marsalis has incredible breath control and my professional musician friend, said, “His sound is pure.” We got to watch and hear a genius play that night.

The musicians were: Joey Calderazzo on piano; Eric Revis on bass; Justin Faulkner on drums, and Mr. Marsalis on saxophone. Calderazzo was seated on the left and had his back to the audience, so we could see his fancy finger work. Marsalis was front and center and the bass player behind him. On the right was drummer Faulkner, who shared the spotlight with all the musicians. It was nice to see he wasn’t hidden in the back like many drummers I have seen in other concerts. Read more »

Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and quartet perform Friday evening

Publiation: Gainesville.com
Author: Jeff Schweers
Date: April 2, 2014

Basketball is probably the last thing you’d expect to talk to Branford Marsalis about, but when talking to the award-winning saxophonist you have to expect the unexpected.

Same goes for his concerts. When he and his quartet come to the Phillips Center on Friday, the audience could be in for a surprise because the band has no setlist and plays according to the room and the audience.

“As soon as we hear the room and the sound with an audience we will know what to play,” Marsalis said by phone while eating breakfast at a cafe in Durham, N. C., before teaching class at North Carolina Central University, where he’s been since joining the faculty in 2005.

At one recent concert the audience wasn’t responding to anything written after 1950, so Marsalis called out to the band “Trad night,” and they played a set of traditional songs. “They were over the moon,” he said of the band. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 2nd, 2014 — 05:09pm

Reviews: Marsalis and Vandermark unleash storms of sound

Chicago Tribune
Author: Howard Reich
Date: February 2, 2014

Two leonine saxophonists of very different sorts made major statements over the weekend, each reaffirming his stature as soloist and bandleader.

Though Branford Marsalis and Ken Vandermark occupy distinct locales on the jazz spectrum, listeners with varying tastes easily could admire the work of both men. For Marsalis and Vandermark proved that clarity of vision and ferocity of expression make a deep impact on an audience, regardless of the musical style or idiom at play. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 3rd, 2014 — 09:59am

Doug Collette's Take Five

Publication: Glide Magazine
Author: Doug Collette
Date: December 2, 2013

The Branford Marsalis Quartet/Four MF’s Playin’  Tunes (Marsalis Music): Alternately sultry and scorching, this album belies the casual informality of its title. No doubt inspired by both their extended tenure together and the challenging, memorable original material supplied by pianist Joey Calderazzo, BMQ explore the rhythm and melody of tunes without losing their inner pulse or fundamental motif and, in doing so, the musicians maintain their individual personalities even as they forge a collective persona as the group.

Eric Revis/City of Asylum (Clean Feed): Establishing an intense state of collective concentration with the downbeat that begins the first track, it’s simple to see how Eric Revis has remained a stalwart within The Branford Marsalis Quintet for sixteen years. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 11th, 2013 — 10:51am

Festival Review: Red Sea Jazz Festival August 18-21

Publication: The Jerusalem Post
Author: Barry Davis
Date: August 25, 2013

Branford Marsalis may have noted it was devilishly hot at the start of his quartet’s first gig at last week’s Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, but he did absolutely nothing to moderate the furnace-like conditions. He and his cohorts – pianist Joey Calderazzo, bass player Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner – poured out tons of white-hot energy and blistering, silky skills right from the word go.

In a pre-festival interview, 52-year-old saxophonist Marsalis had talked about intensity as his byword, and that was the key to the group’s success. The foursome played material from its latest album, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, as well as the odd standard, and there was ne’er a dull moment in the entire 80+ minute set.

A prime example was Revis’s seemingly never ending ostinato – repetitive phrase – on one of the numbers. The order and volume of the bass notes never changed, but the intensity of the sound appeared to ebb and flow as the rest the band members did their thing. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 26th, 2013 — 01:37pm

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