Branford Marsalis Quartet

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Romare Bearden Revealed

Publication: Jazz Times
Author: Ron Wynn
Date: December 2003

Branford Marsalis’ latest session is both a celebration of an incredible artistic genius, Romare Bearden, and a marvelous salute to African-American musical heritage and tradition. It’s also another indication that Marsalis was right to desert the corporate wars and go the independent route. This disc’s nine cuts have a joyous, emphatic quality that was seldom approached on Marsalis’ final Columbia releases. There’s nothing clinical in his tone or sound, nor anything rote in his or anyone else’s solos. Marsalis’ playing reflects the passion and confidence of an improviser thoroughly immersed in each composition. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 9th, 2012 — 07:02pm

Influences: Jazz drummer Justin Faulkner

Publication: Los Angeles Times
Author: Scott Timberg
Date: February 22, 2012

For the last three years, audiences have been walking into shows by Branford Marsalis and other headliners and walking out talking about Justin Faulkner.

The drummer joined Marsalis’ group on his 18th birthday while still a high school senior; Ben Ratliff of the New York Times described him soon after as playing with “the cutthroat sensibility of the very young with something to prove. At the same time, Mr. Faulkner is listening and attuned to sound.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 5th, 2012 — 11:38am

LIVE: Branford Marsalis (Duo + Quartet) at Proctors, 2/3/12

Publication: Nippertown!
Author: J Hunter
Date: February 3, 2012

I hadn’t known this was an issue until it was pointed out to me by a musician whose opinion (and playing) I deeply respect. Essentially, it boils down to a very simple question: What is the deal with Branford Marsalis when he plays tenor saxophone? When Marsalis plays soprano sax, he is the epitome of precision and expression; however, when he plays tenor he just… well… honks. I closely observed this situation over two sets at Proctors last Friday night. (Well, one-and-a-half sets, if we’re going to be accurate.)

The show was split up between an opening series of duets between Branford and pianist Joey Calderazzo, and a full-band set with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. The duets came from “Songs of Mirth & Melancholy” (Marsalis Music, 2011), which Marsalis and Calderazzo recorded after seeing the potential of such a disc during an impromptu duo show at the Newport Jazz Festival. Although we only heard four tunes before the pair declared an intermission, that relatively short performance displayed the contrast between the thrilling intimacy of the Melancholy material and the full-bore nastiness of the Branford Quartet. It also displayed the skin-tight chemistry Marsalis and Calderazzo share; he’s got that with all his band members, but the relationship between leader and pianist was really under the microscope in this no-frills (and no-safety-net) setting.

After a quick reminiscence by Marsalis on the last time he played Proctors (eight years ago, when the Marsalis Family was on tour), the duo slipped into “La Valse Kendall,” a Calderazzo original that is equal parts classical and jazz, and could make you cry uncontrollably when heard at the right moment. Marsalis’ soprano went right for your soul and did its best to tear the sucker out by the roots, while Calderazzo’s immaculate precision added a real sense of occasion to the piece. Then they switched to Calderazzo’s stride-rich “One Way,” and Marsalis began the first series of honking sounds on tenor. Okay, he wasn’t REALLY honking; what he played was not only damn good, it was entirely appropriate to the piece and the era it recalled. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 03:22pm

Branford Marsalis @ Proctors, 2/3/12

Publication: Times Union Arts Talk Blog
Author: Michael Eck
Date: February 4, 2012

There was some big listening going on at Proctors Friday night, onstage and off.

Naturally, the audience, which had paid its money, had its ears on, but saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo had their giant ears on.

In the opening number of the duo’s opening set, Marsalis pushed his soprano against Calderazzo’s clouds of sound. The shape of the melody recalled Jewish themes. The harmony, spare and open, came from the American south. And the result sounded like heaven.

Marsalis and his longtime cohort released a duo album last year, and they culled tunes like the above, “La Valse Kendall,” and “The Bard Lachrymose” from that disc.

On the second number (“One Way”) Marsalis unleashed his robust tenor tone, and he continued to bounce back and forth between the two horns throughout the evening.

The gentlemen broke after 40 minutes and then brought out the full Marsalis Quartet for a 70-minute set that was often stunning, sometimes mesmerizing and always real.

Instantly the rhythm section was cracking, with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jason Faulker working overtime behind Calderazzo’s now pumping piano. But this is a band that understands dynamics and together they rode the swells, heartbeats and car crashes that make up a great night of jazz. Marsalis’ sweet soprano release, for example, at the end of Revis’ “Maestra” was a breath of surrender. Wow. Read more »

Pianist Joey Calderazzo an influential sideman with Branford Marsalis

Publication: TimesUnion.com
Author: R.J. LeDuke
Date: February 1, 2012

Playing piano with Branford Marsalis, one of jazz music’s select saxophonists, has its requisite challenges, even beyond the on-the-fly improvisational nature of jazz that forces musicians to stay on their toes. Marsalis is one of those who brings the heat every night.

Pianist Joey Calderazzo has been an integral part of the Branford Marsalis Quartet for about 11 years, adding his distinct brand of creativity and energy to the exciting group sound. But melding with a powerful and dynamic tenor sax force isn’t new to the pianist. Prior to that gig, he spent a similar length of time with Michael Brecker, the most influential saxophonist since John Coltrane.

Calderazzo, who calls Marsalis his closest friend, is part of a stellar musical team that will be on display Friday night at Proctors in Schenectady. It will be a special night for fans, who will get to hear the two play in a duet setting as a warm-up to a performance by the full quartet, with Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 2nd, 2012 — 01:36pm

Branford Marsalis will be in good company Friday night at Proctors

Publication: The Saratogian
Date: February 2, 2012
Author: Phil Drew

SCHENECTADY — The art of collaboration in jazz is a delicate thing. The right combination of performers can make all the difference — not just in the who, but in the how.

Noted Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a case in point. His performance Friday night at Proctors Theatre will mark his first appearance in the region in several years, and it will feature both the familiar Branford Marsalis Quartet and a newer duet with pianist Joey Calderazzo.

In 1998, the delicate balance of the quartet was briefly disrupted by the sudden death of pianist Kenny Kirkland. His subsequent replacement by Calderazzo was a seamless transition for the foursome, which also includes bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Train” Watts. That temporary imbalance opened Marsalis’ eyes to new possibilities.

“To me, my favorite jazz musicians are like good talk-show radio hosts,” Marsalis said. “A good talk-show host has to know a little bit about a lot of things and be able to talk about them with some knowledge. Over the years, Joey has developed. He knows all the modern stuff. He’s also fluent with the classics, with Brahms and Schumann. It shows in the |lyricism of the songs he writes. We have so many options in how we play now.” Read more »

Branford Marsalis brings mirth and melancholy to the Schermerhorn

Publication: ArtNowNashville.com
Author: Ron Wynn
Date: January 25, 2012

Saxophonist, bandleader and composer Branford Marsalis’ writing and playing has become steadily more adventurous and challenging since he chose to concentrate on his quartet in the late ’90s. Friday night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, he gave a packed house ample example of how much he’s moved beyond the emulative fare that was his specialty when he made his debut as young player with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1980.

The evening’s program was divided into a duet segment – with Marsalis (soprano and tenor sax) and pianist Joey Calderazzo – and a quartet portion that added bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. In both sets, the music was always extensive and invigorating. It might have gotten a bit too unconventional for those preferring basic 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures and simple songs forms. The Marsalis duo and quartet pieces never veered into the avant-garde, but there were pieces that lasted between 15 and 20 minutes. Some had multiple sections, and most weren’t variations on familiar melodies. Even when they did perform traditional parts of the jazz canon, the Marsalis ensemble did them in a manner that spotlighted both the individual member’s brilliance and group’s desire to keep stretching the music’s fabric. Read more »

In Performance: The Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: The Musical Box 
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: January 20, 2012

Some artists have a knack for song titles. Others, like the members of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, prefer taking them for test drives first and then hammering them into shape, just as they would with the actual composition.

Last night, before a full house at the Grand Theatre, Marsalis tried out a few new titles during a set made up largely of works to be featured on an upcoming quartet recording. The set-opening The Mighty Sword, a rugged bit of percussive swing that had pianist/composer Joey Calderazzo feeding off the youthful drive of drummer Jason Faulkner (and vice versa), was initially titled Twister. Marsalis said bassist Eric Revis vetoed that name.

Similarly, the title to the saxophonist’s own Whiplash didn’t seem to thrill the band, even though the music obviously did. It started as a lean, piano-less trio romp that embraced the speed and danger element of a thrill park ride before Calderazzo re-entered. Faulkner brought the tune home with a solo fortified by the tireless stamina of an Olympian. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 23rd, 2012 — 01:06pm

Live Review: The Branford Marsalis Quartet at Reynolds

Publication: Duke Performances The Thread
Author: Darren Mueller and Matthew Somoroff 
Date: January 17, 2012

“We need to quit thinking of songs as vehicles and think of them as songs, and treat each song with equality… What [pianist Joey Calderazzo and I] are trying to do is to figure out the emotional purpose of each song we play and then play according to that purpose, as opposed to musicians who spend their time developing what they call a concept. The biggest drawback of developing a concept is that everything you play has to be filtered through that concept. Ergo, every song ends up sounding exactly the same, which is called consistency, but it’s actually just dull-ass repetition. There’s nothing consistent about it. On [Songs of Mirth and Melancholy], I think that’s what we achieved: intellectual and musical consistency, even though all the songs are different.” —Branford Marsalis at his Duke Performances listening session

There is a lot to Branford Marsalis’ line of thinking here. Jazz composers such as Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, or Maria Schneider would most likely not only agree with Marsalis, but also say that this approach is a foregone conclusion to their musical conception. The recorded work of Miles Davis’ 1960s quintet, to which Marsalis referred, during the listening session, as one of his inspirations to pursue jazz, represents a similar approach to small-group improvisation. During the latter half of the decade, Davis’ style of playing on versions of “Agitation” differed from his playing on “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” The differences went beyond variance in tempo, encompassing timbral inflections, phrasing, and overall concept.

On January 13 at Reynolds Theater—the first date of the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s two-night, sold-out Duke Performances engagement—Marsalis practiced what he preaches.
Submitted by Courtney on January 17th, 2012 — 03:44pm

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet: tour-de-force blend of order and mayhem

September 21, 2011
MercuryNews.com
By Richard Scheinin

During Tuesday night’s opening set by the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, I sat in the front row, directly in front of the drums. This meant experiencing, for the next 75 minutes, the unremitting physical force and inventive flow of 20-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner, whose playing sums up the ethos of this great band: order and mayhem, glued together as one. The order inside the mayhem; the mayhem inside the order.

Branford MarsalisThe quartet — which you can see through Sunday at Yoshi’s-San Francisco — played two sold-out shows at the Kuumbwa, the little Santa Cruz club, where Marsalis’s group always plays as if it’s just won the lottery. This was its first visit to Santa Cruz in over two years; the last time through, Faulkner, straight out of a high school band program in Philadelphia, had just joined the group.

On “Teo,” by Thelonious Monk, Faulkner began Tuesday with the easy bounce-and-snap swing of Monk’s old drummers; someone like Frankie Dunlop. Then he threw in a New Orleans second-line flourish and moved toward a swirling Elvin Jones space, which is where this group lands a lot.

And now Marsalis entered with his solo on tenor saxophone, which he built patiently, even meticulously: Long, long notes, giving way to exhilarating bebop lines, tonguing just about every note, like old-time Sonny Rollins. Then he let loose, escalating into a post-Coltrane blast furnace — and in the middle of this holy-roller mayhem, he and pianist Joey Calderazzo glanced at one another and simultaneously played two or three bars of melody from Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.”

It was surreal, as if they had stepped into an adjoining room. Were they sharing a private joke? Showing off? Or maybe their brains are just linked after 13 years of sharing the bandstand.

A
few observations: Marsalis has a massive sound; he doesn’t need to get anywhere close to a microphone to be heard. Also, he makes the saxophone sound like a woodwind; there’s this rich woodsy-ness to his tone. His delivery is urgent and beautiful. Ditto for bassist Eric Revis. Every note that he plays is a gem — fat tone, perfect pulse, like Jimmy Garrison. He never overplays; he seems to arrive at each note inevitably, as if it is the result of long, silent consideration.
Read more »