Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis shows classical side

Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: November 25, 2012

Branford Marsalis may be best known as the former music director and bandleader for NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in the 1990s. But his artistry runs much deeper.

He’s a member of a distinguished New Orleans jazz dynasty that began with his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. Branford, a saxophonist and the oldest of his siblings – who include trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason – established his reputation while still a student at the Berklee College of Music, working with jazz luminaries Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry.

Since then, he’s appeared with a who’s-who of jazz giants. He has also partnered with musicians as diverse as Sting, the Grateful Dead, and the hip-hop group Public Enemy. The Grammy Award-winner founded his own record label a decade ago, and records with his own Branford Marsalis Quartet.

The other side of this artist is that he is as comfortable discussing Shostakovich as he is Miles Davis.

Marsalis made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2010, the same year that his score for the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences” earned a Tony Award nomination for “Best Original Score Written for the Theater.” He has appeared as a soloist with orchestras around the world in music by composers such as Copland, Debussy and Darius Milhaud.

This year, Marsalis is a creative director for the Ascent Series for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Read more »

Branford Marsalis returns to Holland

Publication: Omaha World-Herald
Author: Kevin Coffey
Date: November 8, 2012

The last time Branford Marsalis was in town, he stopped in to jam with some friends.

The time before that, the jazz master helped open the Holland Performing Arts Center.

On Friday, Marsalis and his quartet will come back to the venue to play music from his new album, “Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes,” as well as old favorites.

“We go all over the place. It depends on the audience, what they can listen to,” he told The World-Herald. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 8th, 2012 — 12:28pm

Like It Is

Publication: JazzTimes
Author: Bill Milkowski

 To say that Branford Marsalis is forthcoming is an understatement. In an age when athletes, politicians and public figures have all been schooled in the art of saying nothing but innocuous platitudes intended to offend no one and reveal nothing, the three-time Grammy winner unapologetically speaks his mind. A veritable quote machine, he spews pointed statements like a verbal Gatling gun.

Being approachable, talkative and extremely opinionated makes Marsalis an ideal interview subject. Essentially, all you have to do is press the “record” button, toss in an occasional query, stand back and let him roll. And he never disappoints. Ask him anything and the ideas—grounded in logic, full of intelligence and wit and brimming with a daredevil disregard for the run-of-the-mill—come cascading off his tongue without hesitation, like his much-vaunted tenor and soprano sax playing.

On the day of this phone interview, the eldest of the five Marsalis brothers was at his home in Durham, N.C., preparing for a classical recital at the Beethoven Festival in Winona, Minn. His new quartet outing, the wryly titled Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis), had just come out. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 7th, 2012 — 12:33pm

Branford Marsalis Interview: ‘Four MFs Playin’ Tunes’

Publication: The Republic (Arizona)
Author: Ed Masley
Date: November 6, 2012

Branford Marsalis is about to bring the latest version of his jazz quartet — with Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums — to the Musical Instrument Museum on the heels of releasing a brilliant new album amusingly titled “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes.”

But Marsalis has long since moved on from that album in his mind. It’s been a year since they recorded it. And he’s not living in the past.

The saxophonist graciously agreed to share his thoughts on everything from “Four MFs to what it meant to add a teenage drummer to the lineup in a thought-provoking interview that lasted nearly 30 minutes without ever making its way to the intended second question.

Question: The new album sounds amazing. I’d assume you’re pretty happy with the way it turned out?

Answer: I was, yeah. But we’re mentally on to the next thing (laughs).

Q: Already?

A: Oh yeah, man. The only thing our records do is document our progress or lack thereof. There’s growth and improvement or there’s just monotony. As Sonny Rollins told me, “Some of my colleagues have found something that works really well for them and they repeat that thing over and over again. And that’s cool, ’cause the hard thing to do is to find that one thing that works.” But for him, it’s always been about expanding and stretching and trying things, not standing still. And I agree. Read more »

A Few Words with Branford Marsalis

Publication: DANSR.com
Author: Sean Packard
Date: November 2, 2012

NEA Jazz Master and Grammy Award®-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis has established himself as a world class artist – both jazz and classical, as a bandleader, composer, and as head of the Marsalis Music Record Label.  Marsalis leads one of the finest jazz quartets today, and performs frequently as a classical soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and the New York Philharmonic.   Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 5th, 2012 — 01:40pm

Marsalis Music Interviews Art Director Steven Jurgensmeyer

Steven Jurgensmeyer began his career as the Art Director at the trailblazing record label Rykodisc, working closely with Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bob Mould, Robert Cray and Morphine, among others. He joined Rounder Records as Creative Director, working with musicians such as Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, Harry Connick Jr, and Madeleine Peyroux. He is now the principal in his own studio and has worked with Carly Simon, Dan Zanes, Richard Lewis, the legendary Jamaican label Studio One and, of course, Branford Marsalis. His work can be seen at www.stevenjurgensmeyer.com.

Marsalis Music: You were the Art Director for Branford’s two latest recording projects, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy and Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. Could you please explain your concept for each project?
 
Steven Jurgensmeyer: It was a great pleasure working directly with Branford on Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. He sent me a CD of the music and asked me to “design what I heard.” Upon hearing the music, two things struck me pretty immediately; one was the openness of the music, and the space “between” the notes. The second was the obvious familiarity and intimacy between Branford and Joey. So… you had two really contrasting ideas at play here, and I really wanted to create something beautiful, that would stand the test of time and sit comfortably amongst the classic album covers from Blue Note and Prestige. I knew a sense of scale was going to be a key to success; luckily, we were able to utilize this wonderful, towering wall in the Museum of Fine Arts’ new “Art of the Americas” wing. I loved the stone and the natural light; it really filled the “spacious” role, but also became another player in the composition. The “other thing” I needed to capture was the familiarity Branford and Joey share as musicians. They brought that naturally with their personalities and relationship. There was a lot of clowning around (as the outtakes attest!), but their body language in the final shot provided exactly what was needed. Photographer Stephen Sheffield caught that moment; I knew immediately that this shot was the cover. The typography is a nod to the simplicity and grace of that classic era of jazz sleeves and to the album’s title. This cover is my favorite piece in my career to date.

With Four MFs, we wanted to illustrate the importance of each band member and their musical personality and contributions in this particular quartet, as they had really jelled into a formidable unit. I knew I wanted “motion” to serve as the metaphor for the music and, in turn, highlight each musician in focus, while the others “played” around him or her. A friend recommended photographer Eric Ryan Anderson, who uses a lot of motion techniques; he was game and the shoot was on. As with any shoot, no matter how tightly scripted, you always have to improvise and we worked the quartet hard to get those shots! It was an incredibly difficult shoot; a lot of fun, to be sure, but a long day and hard work.

Marsalis Music: What was the biggest challenge during the Four MFs shoot?
 
SJ: The biggest challenge of theFour MFs shoot was keeping the guys moving and staying out of the subject’s way so that he remained the focus. It’s not easy to plan and direct spontaneity! Read more »

Branford Marsalis: Don’t call him an instrumentalist. He’s an MF musician

Publication: IRockJazz.com
Author: Matthew Allen
Date: September 7, 2012

“I don’t use songs as a vehicle to glorify myself. I’m going to play whatever is required to make the song successful.” These are the words of Branford Marsalis. He’s a man that understands that it’s not all about him. Considering the big names he’s played with from Sting to Gang Starr, and all the hit songs he’s played on, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t gotten a big head, but the truth is that in the realm of jazz, it’s easy for some to get caught up in their own ideas and try to show them off to whomever is listening. Marsalis, however, takes no part in that line of thinking, and it’s a main reason why he’s been as successful as he has and why he continues to grow and educate others in that the music is more important than the musician.

Marsalis has long considered himself as a musician rather than as a saxophonist. In his mind, there is a big difference between the two in that a musician is someone that knows what it takes to make a song reach its highest potential, even if it means not playing as fast as one can or as many notes as is possible. “For the instrumentalist, the instrument is the center of their life; for a musician, the music they play is the center of their life,” Marsalis explains to iRockJazz. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 10th, 2012 — 11:35am

Branford Marsalis to play Grace Cathedral

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Jesse Hamlin
Date: August 26, 2012

Branford Marsalis decided to quit his coveted job as the musical director of “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno in 1994 after playing Jacques Ibert’s concerto for alto saxophone with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of another far-ranging jazz musician, Bobby McFerrin. The performance pleased the audience and critics, but not the artist.

It was dreadful, man. I hated the way I played,” says Marsalis, a forthright and funny man who’s unsparing in his praise for things he admires and blunt about those he doesn’t. “My tone was not good and my technique was shabby. I had to choose - I was either going to be a musician or stay in show business. After that concert, I decided I wanted to be a musician.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 27th, 2012 — 11:09am

Jazz to classical, Branford Marsalis does it all

Publication: UT San Diego
Author: George Varga
Date: August 4, 2012

Saxophone star Branford Marsalis is not the first jazz artist who will perform a classical music repertoire at SummerFest in La Jolla, but he is by far the most celebrated and best known. Credit for this goes to his multiple Grammy Awards in both jazz and pop, his high-profile TV stint in the 1990s as the band leader and musical director on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” and his acting in the films “Throw Momma From the Train” and “School Daze.”

But what really makes this Louisiana native stand out is his ability to shine in almost any musical setting. Accordingly, his Wednesday concert at Sherwood Auditorium will feature works by such uncompromising composers as Hindemith, Barber and Busch, as well as a series of improvisation-fueled jazz duets with bassist Eric Revis.

An artist for all seasons, the eclectic saxophonist has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and other top orchestras around the world on works by Mahler, Copland, Debussy and Milhaud. He has scored two Broadway plays, last year’s “The Mountain Top” and the 2010 revival of August Wilson’s “Fences” (for which Marsalis’ music earned a Tony Award nomination). And he has collaborated with an array of artists so stylistically diverse that it’s difficult to think of any other saxophonist, in or out of jazz, who even comes close. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 9th, 2012 — 10:50am

Branford Marsalis shows no fear at SummerFest

Publication: UT San Diego
Author: James Chute
Date: August 9, 2012

You have to give Branford Marsalis credit: he has absolutely no fear.

It was probably pretty scary when he joined Art Blakey’s famed Jazz Messengers while still a student. And he undoubtedly he had some frightful moments while musical director of the Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” Then there were the times he performed with the Grateful Dead. Read more »