Branford Marsalis

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 »

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis to open festival

Publication: WinonaDailyNews.com
Author: Terry Rindfleisch
Date: June 24, 2012

World-class jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis embarks on a new journey in the world of classical music at the 2012 Minnesota Beethoven Festival.

Marsalis, a three-time Grammy winner who has his own jazz quartet, is no stranger to classical music and is a frequent soloist with major symphony orchestras.

But when he opens the Beethoven festival next Sunday, the 51-year-old will perform his first classical music recital since high school.

“This recital is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” Marsalis said in a recent telephone interview. “I don’t play classical music as much as I would like, but the more I play, the better I get. It is the most solid music I play.”

For the recital, Marsalis is collaborating with pianist Ned Kirk, a Saint Mary’s University music professor and artistic/managing director of the Beethoven festival.

“He is an amazing musician and collaborating with him has been a joy,” Kirk said. “He is the first artist who has treated me like a partner, with a lot of give and take.”

Kirk has rehearsed with Marsalis in California, North Carolina and New Orleans in preparing for the recital. It was Kirk who suggested they stage a classical music recital together after Marsalis and a Brazilian ensemble performed a special concert in October 2008 as part of the Beethoven Festival.

“He was very excited about such a recital because it was new to him, and it has been an amazing experience,” Kirk said.

Marsalis will play works for alto and soprano sax by six composers, including Beethoven and Samuel Barber.

He has played classical music professionally for 10 years. He performs about 10 classical music concerts a year and he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra two years ago.

Submitted by Courtney on June 25th, 2012 — 09:36am

Branford Marsalis talks about his famous family, stardom and playing with Westchester Philharmonic

Publication: LoHud.com
Author: Latoya West
Date: May 17, 2012

Branford Marsalis has accomplished great things since he first picked up the saxophone. He has played with some of the world’s greatest musicians, led the “Tonight Show” band, won Grammy Awards and composed music for Broadway shows.

Now, one of the shining stars of “jazz’s first family,” is coming to Westchester to play with the Westchester Philharmonic as they close out their 2011-2012 season at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College this weekend.

“I have a couple pieces I am going to play,” he tells us. “I’m going to learn a lot and I’m going to have a good time.”

Before you go to the show, here are six things you might not have known about the man behind the saxophone.

1. In Branford’s opinion, he didn’t really grow up in a musical family.
Sure, his older brother Wynton Marsalis is a superstar in the world of jazz. And yes, music seems to be in his family’s DNA. But Marsalis says he didn’t grow up in a “musical family” as most people would assume. “That’s the myth and you can’t stop the myth sometimes,” he says. “I grew up in a regular family with too many kids arguing and fighting, driving mom crazy…with fraternal football games that often turned bloody. Our memories as kids weren’t about us sitting around practicing all day. I mean Wynton practiced a lot, starting when he was 13. But that was his choice.”

2. Contrary to media reports, there was never any sibling rivalry between him and Wynton.
“As far as music goes, we don’t play the same instrument, so what would be the reason for the rivalry?” Marsalis says. But that doesn’t mean the brothers never had tension as they defined their individual career paths. “ Wynton was upset when I left his band to join Sting’s band and then the media started talking about a rivalry,” Marsalis recalls. “But it was less of a rivalry and more of a profound ideological disagreement, which over time resolved itself as those things often do among family members.”

3. He wanted to be a history teacher.
“I was going to school majoring in history. I wanted to be a school teacher,” Marsalis says. But he credits his father for talking him into pursuing his music dream at age 19. “He said when you’re married with kids, you don’t want to be sitting around wondering if you could have done it,” Marsalis recalls. “So I moved to Boston for 1 1/2 years and went to the Berklee School of Music and then I went to New York after that. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on May 18th, 2012 — 03:22pm

All in the Family

Publication: VanityFair.com
Author: Benjamin Wallace
Date: March 29, 2012

Whether you’re going into your first audition or making your fourth trip to Promises, navigating the entertainment world is a tricky business. Close-knit Hollywood clans such as the Baldwins, Cusacks, Wayanses, and Arquettes have a leg up (not to mention some undeniably good genes), it seems, sharing tips about everything from choosing a project that might strike Oscar gold to avoiding the paparazzi. Whether it’s DNA, shared know-how, or sheer power-in-numbers, some families clearly have that something special. Benjamin Wallace investigates the origin of that je ne sais quoi and the support and rivalry it gives rise to.

Sometimes, the parents are not only enablers but also role models. Ellis Marsalis, father of the Marsalis brothers—Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason—was a jazz musician, but there was no pressure on his sons to follow his path, Wynton says. The only thing the Marsalis parents did to guide their children was to make sure—wisely—that each played a different instrument. “My father didn’t expect us to become musical professionals,” Wynton says. “I didn’t start practicing till I was 12.”

Wynton Marsalis experiences a kind of synchronistic mind meld with his brother Branford. “I just stopped in North Carolina and taught his class,” Wynton says, “and at the end, we played together. There were so many ideas going back and forth, such an understanding. You know you can look at someone, and with a glance know you’re thinking the same thing? And then you look away and think something else, then look back, and you’re thinking the same thing? Me and Branford can play two solos, then play counterpoint to each other, and then reach a point where we play the same five or six notes in a row. That’s almost unbelievable. It’s a fascinating thing.”

To read the rest of Mr. Wallace’s interesting article about fame and families, please visit VanityFair.com. Read more »

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo: Songs of Mirth and Melancholy

Publication: Houston Press
Author: Olivia Flores Alvarez
Date: March 22, 2012

Think you know saxophonist Branford Marsalis? Think again. His latest CD, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, on which he’s joined by pianist Joey Calderazzo, is a departure from his previous material, a drastic departure based less on virtuosity and more on melodic style. Bottom line, it’s less note-y. And it’s that music that will be the basis for today’s concert, Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo: Songs of Mirth and Melancholy.

Marsalis and Calderazzo have been performing together for several years in the Marsalis Quartet, but when the duo performed at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival things really clicked and the two decided to record together. The result was Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a collection of originals from the two performers, with the exception of Wayne Shorter’s “Face on the Barroom Floor” and Brahms’s Die Trauernde.

“I have only played duo with Harry [Connick, Jr.], my dad [Ellis Marsalis] and Joey. And with Joey, I can go in different directions,” says Marsalis via press materials. In liner notes for Mirth and Melancholy, he praises Calderazzo’s talent and versatility. “There are so few people who can actually create melody – which is why there’s an over-reliance on pattern, because it’s attainable and melody is elusive: either you’ve got it or you don’t. Joey’s always had it, and the technical side as well.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 28th, 2012 — 10:17am

‘Finding Your Roots’: Marsalis Reflects; Why Alicia Keys Pulled Out

Publication: EurWeb.com
Author: Cherie Saunders
Date: March 26, 2012

New Orleans-born musician Branford Marsalis was hit with a one-two punch in Sunday’s season premiere of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.”

First, the Grammy winning saxophonist had always figured that he had white, European blood in his family line – as do most African Americans – and had always assumed that it was the result of a slave master raping one of his ancestors, as is usually the case.

Dr. Gates confirmed that Branford indeed descends from a German white man, Johann Learson, who changed his name to John Learson and shows up in New Orleans in 1851. But he fathered a child with a free black woman – named Mertay Valentine, Branford’s great, great, great grandmother). The relationship appears to have been a long one, as they had seven children – each bearing Learson’s surname.

Then, Dr. Gates dropped the other bombshell. The Marsalis family does not actually descend from a Marsalis. Their blood line comes from Isaac Black, who was married to Branford’s great, great grandmother Elizabeth Montgomery. They had a child together, Simeon, before divorcing a short time later. She then married Joseph Marsalis, who adopted Simeon. The boy then took on his step-father’s name.

“When Professor Gates was telling it to me, I kind of said, ‘You know, however I got here is fine with me,’” Marsalis recalls of that moment in the episode. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 27th, 2012 — 02:01pm

Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis explore their family trees on PBS' 'Finding Your Roots'

Publication: Nola.com
Author: Dave Walker
Date: March 25, 2012

The genealogy surprises revealed to Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in the latest installment of Gates’ “Finding Your Roots” series for PBS are so much fun they could count as story spoilers. So, if you want those surprises preserved, feel free to now skip ahead a few paragraphs knowing that a couple of New Orleans’ favorite sons meet some great-great-greats they couldn’t have imagined having. Spoilers a-comin’.

The episode airs at 7 p.m. Sunday (March 25), followed by a second hour in which Gates does similar digging for Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The Marsalis musical dynasty, it turns out, is the product of the mid-1800s union of a German immigrant and a free woman of color.

The couple couldn’t marry, and their relationship – which produced seven children – was a statistical rarity.

“They had a relationship of mutuality and love and that kept them together, and that’s really neat,” Gates said during a recent phone interview. “Here’s something that will never be lost now for the Marsalis family, that they’re descended from this white man who defied all the common prejudices of the time. He gets off the boat and the first thing he sees is this beautiful free Negro woman, and boom they have seven children. Can you imagine writing home? Read more »

Stars search for their roots on PBS series

Publication: Lansing State Journal
Author: Mike Hughes
Date: March 24, 2012

Decades ago, the Marsalis kids had their notion of fun.

Branford, 13, and Wynton, 12, would find white Marsalis families in Summit, Miss.

“We’d knock on the door and say, ‘We’re doing our family tree and I think we’re related,’” Branford Marsalis recalled semi-sheepishly, “ just to watch them go, ‘Oh no, there must some mistake!’”

In truth, he knew they weren’t related to these people – “we were just being jerks” – but he also knew there were whites somewhere on the family tree. “In the hot Louisiana sun, when I … saw little blond hairs on my arm, I thought, ‘Ahh, that’s not supposed to happen.’”

The search for answers is at the core of “Finding Your Roots,” Henry Louis Gates’ new PBS series. It reflects something that has drawn Gates since the 1960 funeral of his grandfather. Read more »