Branford Marsalis Quartet

Pianist Joey Calderazzo an influential sideman with Branford Marsalis

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

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
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.

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 »

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo Swing Hard, On and Off the Course

Publication: Huffington Post
Author: Kristi York Wooten
Date: July 12, 2011

This is not a blog about golf — although the two jazz musicians/golf players here in question will tell you their attempts to master the sport require almost as much time and energy as prepping for shows at the world’s top music venues.

Yet, when it comes to saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo, golf factors into the story only because they first started dueting publicly at charity tournaments, which eventually led to a much-lauded duo gig at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival — and now, at long last, a full-length CD: Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. Read more »

Jazz review: Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard at the Broad Stage

Publication: Los Angeles Times
Author: Chris Barton
Date: April 3, 2011

Split evenly between two groups, Saturday’s show featuring Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard felt a little like watching a prize fight. No punches were thrown and there was nothing less than harmony between the players, but a double-bill featuring two of the biggest names in contemporary jazz is undoubtably a main event, and the stylistic contrast between the two heavyweights was striking. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 5th, 2011 — 04:20pm

Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard @ Kennedy Center

Publication: DCist
Author: Sriram Gopal
Date: March 28, 2011

Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard The Kennedy Center presented a double bill on Saturday evening that showed two very different approaches to modern acoustic jazz. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard are both titans of the genre, with strong pedigrees in the musical traditions of New Orleans. Marsalis’s quartet adopted a less structured sound that was more adventurous and challenging, while Blanchard’s quintet dug more into the swing of things and offered more accessibility during its half of the two-and-a-half hour concert. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 29th, 2011 — 12:58pm

Marsalis and Blanchard focus on the new, not the tried-and-true

Author: Dan Emerson
Date: February 27, 2011

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who led their respective bands Sunday night at Orchestra Hall, don’t seem old enough to have had a 40-year musical relationship.

But that is the case, Marsalis, 50, told the audience. They met as grade-schoolers at a summer jazz camp in their native New Orleans in 1970, and have been collaborators, off-and-on, ever since.

Sunday’s concert featured mostly new compositions by the two bandleaders and their colleagues — a refreshing change, since most Orchestra Hall jazz shows feature tried-and-true standards.

Marsalis opened the show with his quartet, which features two longtime bandmates: pianist Joey Calderazzo and upright bassist Eric Revis. The group’s newest member is young drummer Justin Faulkner. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 28th, 2011 — 04:24pm