Branford Marsalis

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 »

Branford Marsalis + "Treat It Gentle"

Publication: The Revivalist
Author: Eric Sandler
Date: August 6, 2012

Today we are extremely excited to release the video for “Treat It Gentle” from the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s new release Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, out 8/7 on Marsalis Music. The song, featuring influence from the great Sidney Bechet, captures the recording process for the song while encompassing amazing performances from Marsalis, Justin Faulkner, Joey Calderazzo, and Eric Revis.

Moreover, we are bringing you an in-depth interview with Branford Marsalis to bring together the story of the album as well as his thoughts on jazz music today. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard to fight the sheer intellect and experience with which Marsalis speaks. Read on to delve into the alway engaging insights of Mr. Marsalis.

Visit The Revivalist to view the video for “Treat It Gentle.”

We are releasing your video for “Treat It Gentle” today. Can you tell me about the process of recording and how that song came together on the record?

It’s a song that I wrote last summer. I’d been listening to a bunch of Sidney Bechet and I just wrote it in my head. A couple of songs that we wanted to put on the record didn’t sound very good; they didn’t work out well. So I just said, “Oh, I’ve got this song that I wrote.” They asked where it was, but I hadn’t written it out so I took 20-minutes and wrote out the changes for them.

You are very focused on the songs with this record. How important was the songwriting process and reaching the emotion with each song?

Well the songwriting isn’t really important; the song is important. I don’t have this obsession with writing my own material. A lot of guys want to be called composers, you know. But if you’ve ever read a score by Mahler or Wagner, you would know for a fact that I don’t compose, I write tunes. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2012 — 06:14pm

Four MFs Playin' Tunes— Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: JazzTimes
Author: Scott Albin
Date: July 31, 2012

The unassuming title of this CD doesn’t do justice to the music contained therein. This is not a case of casual acquaintances getting together to have fun jamming on commonly known standards, but rather this is music played with purpose, direction, artistic integrity, and passion by four outstanding musicians who share some history together. Bassist Eric Revis was first heard on the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s 1999 Requiem CD, while pianist Joey Calderazzo replaced the late Kenny Kirkland for the 2000 release of Contemporary Jazz. Drummer Justin Faulkner joined the group in 2009 upon the departure of Branford’s longtime associate Jeff “Tain” Watts, and the now 20 year-old Faulkner makes his debut with the quartet on Four MFs. The extremely talented young drummer adds a certain spark that raises the quality of the music from the category of excellent to the rarefied air of the extraordinary. This just may be the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s best recording to date.

Calderazzo leads off “The Mighty Sword” with a solo playing of his swirling Latin-flavored theme with its catchy three-note hook, which is then repeated by Marsalis on soprano. The pianist then takes flight with a propulsive solo that nearly takes your breath away in its persistent invention. Revis and Faulkner are in inspiring lock-step with him, as they are with Marsalis for his equally intense, probing improv. Anyone not already a huge fan of Faulkner’s after his impressive display of power and flexibility on this initial track simply isn’t listening. “Brews” is a Revis blues that sounds at first like Steve Lacy playing one of his quirky tunes influenced by Thelonious Monk. Marsalis’ soprano solo, however, is much more voluble and outgoing than what Lacy would ordinarily produce. Calderazzo’s solo cleverly toys with the thematic and rhythmic elements of the tune, while Revis’ bass exploration offers a concise insight into his piece.

Read more »

Submitted by Ben on August 2nd, 2012 — 01:21pm

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2012)

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan Bilawsky
Date: August 1, 2012

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis has always exhibited a straight-to-the-point attitude in his deeds and musical actions, so the title for his latest quartet date shouldn’t come as a great shock. His choice of words matter-of-factly proclaims that this music isn’t about highbrow ideals, umbrella themes or hyper-intellectual constructs; this is about four musicians making music and serving the songs.

Jazz aficionados know that his albums are almost always a sure bet for brilliance, but fans of this highly regarded unit may come to this record with trepidation since they’re still bemoaning the departure of longtime drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. Their concern is a valid one in theory, but this music should allay their fears. Drummer Justin Faulkner, making his recording debut with the group, seems to have found his footing while playing with the quartet over the past three years. He comes to the music with confidence and a willingness to do what’s necessary. Some people may have scratched their heads in bewilderment when he joined the group, wondering why Marsalis didn’t go with a seasoned veteran instead, but the answer is right here on this disc. Faulkner’s malleable bearing, creativity and chops make for a killer combination that helps the Branford Marsalis Quartet maintain their standard of excellence in the post-Tain era.

Read more »

Submitted by Ben on August 2nd, 2012 — 01:09pm

CD: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Rifftides
Author: Doug Ramsey
Date: July 15, 2012

The Marsalis quartet achieves openness without abandoning harmonic guidelines, hipness without complex chord permutations. A saxophone soloist who manages to meld aggressiveness and wryness, Marsalis is at his peak here. The delight that he, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Reavis and young drummer Justin Faulkner find in supporting and surprising one another is likely to also affect the listener. The tunes are by members of the band except for Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and Richard Whiting’s “My Ideal,” the latter with a tenor solo that combines tenderness and wit. A highlight: Marsalis’s “Treat it Gentle,” recalling Sidney Bechet’s passion on soprano, but not his wide vibrato. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 16th, 2012 — 10:31am

World Saxophone Congress preview: Sax maniacs by the sea

Publication: The Scotsman
Author: Jim Gilchrist
Date: July 5, 2012

WITH almost 200 world premieres, the 16th World Saxophone Congress next week in St Andrews promises a wealth of innovation and entertainment

ADOLPHE Sax could never have guessed just what he was unleashing when he patented a design for a curiously-shaped reed instrument in 1846, that his invention would power the music of such diverse creative spirits as Maurice Ravel and John Coltrane; likewise the douce Fife town of St Andrews probably has little inkling of what will hit it next week when some 800 musicians converge on it from around the globe for the 16th World Saxophone Congress.

The ancient stones of the East Neuk metropolis will reverberate to the unbridled sounds of innumerable reeds as the six-day event hosts scores of concerts, recitals, lectures and workshops – including some 200 world premieres – in venues ranging from St Andrews University’s 1,000-seat Younger Hall to the venerable undercroft of its department of medieval history. Part of the 600th anniversary celebrations of Scotland’s oldest university, the event ranges through classical, jazz, contemporary and even folk genres.

“It’s massive,” says Richard Ingham, the event’s organiser and musician-in-residence at the university. “We’ve been working on it since we won the bid to host it in Bangkok three years ago and it’s a great thrill to be bringing it here, with such a cornucopia of concerts and recitals every day.

“I want to show saxophonists from across the world what Scotland and the UK has to offer, and also I want people from the UK to see and hear what other players from all over the world are doing. There’s some amazing stuff going on out there.”

High-profile guests include the renowned American player Branford Marsalis, who will premiere a new concerto for saxophone by Andy Scott with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the opening gala concert on 10 July. Read more »

Jazzfest Review: Marsalis and Calderazzo walk a musical high wire without a net

Publication: Ottawa Citizen
Author: Doug Fischer
Date: June 26, 2012

REVIEW: Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo Duo
NAC Studio
Reviewed Tuesday, June 26

In these penny-pinching times, a cynic might be tempted to say the recent popularity of the jazz duo is simply the result of programmers finding ways to save money. Two musicians come cheaper than a quintet or, heaven forbid, a big band.

Ah, but true or not, the observation misses an essential point: the duo is not only good value for the bean-counters, it’s probably the leanest way to get at the core of jazz.

If jazz at its best is the in-the-moment interplay between musicians, then what’s more basic, more intimate, than an unencumbered encounter between two players at the top of their game — two guys like saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo?

The pair have played together since Calderazzo replaced the late Kenny Kirkland in Marsalis’s powerhouse quartet in 1998. But it’s only been for the past few years than they have also performed as the seamlessly intuitive duo that played two shows at the Ottawa jazz festival Tuesday night.

Their kind of familiarity can lead in two directions: playing what’s comfortable, or taking advantage of the freedom that comes from trusting each other when walking out on a musical high wire without a net.

Happily, Marsalis and Calderazzo have chosen the latter course. Read more »