Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis goes green, finds his roots

Publication: Mother Nature Network
Author: Gerri Miller
Date: March 21, 2012

“We certainly recycle and force our children to recycle and we compost,” says saxophonist Branford Marsalis, adding that his wife’s attempts at gardening have lacked success “because the deer and rabbits and raccoons love the garden more than you do.” He lives in Durham, N.C., “an environmentally conscious area. I’m trying to convince the city to invest in hydrogen cars for the fleet they drive. BMW and Hyundai make them. Right now there are no stations, but if they buy them the stations will follow. I have a hybrid, but I would love a hydrogen car.”

Marsalis is featured in the premiere episode of PBS’ ten-part series “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” in which the Harvard professor traces the ancestry of such celebrities as Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, Geoffrey Canada, Barbara Walters, Michelle Rodriguez, Margaret Cho, Robert Downey, Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Martha Stewart, Wanda Sykes, Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend and Condoleezza Rice. Marsalis’ friend and fellow Louisiana jazz musician Harry Connick Jr. is also in the opening episode. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 22nd, 2012 — 03:21pm

Jazz musician Branford Marsalis will perform at the Palustris Festival

Publication: FayObserver.com
Author: Rodger Mullen
Date: March 19, 2012

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis has enjoyed a career as one of jazz’s more visible musicians, thanks to gigs as a sideman for Sting, Jay Leno’s sidekick as leader of “The Tonight Show” band and roles in movies including Spike Lee’s “School Daze.”

But Marsalis said he’s never really sought the spotlight.

A lot of popular culture is counter to my nature,” he said. “In order for it to work, there’s a certain level of superficiality that you have to blatantly embrace. I was never that guy.”

Marsalis, 51, is scheduled to perform Thursday in Southern Pines for the opening night of the Palustris Festival. He will be joined by pianist Joey Calderazzo.

A native of Louisiana, Marsalis grew up in a musical family. His father, Ellis Marsalis Jr.; and brothers Wynton, Jason and Delfeayo are all jazz musicians.

In 1980, while still a student at Berklee College of Music, Marsalis toured Europe in an ensemble led by drummer Art Blakey. He went on to play with Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry before joining brother Wynton in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

In 1985, Marsalis began an association with Sting, playing on his “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” album. From 1992 to ‘95, the saxophonist was the leader of “The Tonight Show” band.

Since leaving “The Tonight Show,” Marsalis has kept busy recording albums and performing live. Last year, he and Calderazzo released their first album as a duo, “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy.”

Marsalis recently spoke with the Observer from his home in Durham. Following are excerpts from that conversation:

Observer: What was it like growing up in such a musical family? Was there a lot of competition?

Marsalis: It’s hard to compete when you all play different instruments. My competition was with guys who played my instrument and I loved them so much that there wasn’t really a competition. I mean, to my left was a guy named John McGarry, he’s a doctor now in San Francisco, he was incredible and I really looked up to him. And to my left was David Vitter, who’s now the senator from Louisiana. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 19th, 2012 — 04:59pm

Branford Marsalis toots his horn in Napa

Publication: Times-Herald
Author: Rich Freedman
Date: March 11, 2012

Yes, Branford Marsalis toured with Sting . Yes, he did two years on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.

But, while it might make a good line or two in a lengthy biography, it’s far from who the brilliant saxophonist is. One may as well have found the credits on a cave wall.

For the record, performing with Sting was a good experience. And Leno was a decent chap. But Marsalis, 51, was never the guy to lure the former Police front man onto a recording merely to put “featuring Sting.” Nor was it ever his intention to forever be “that guy who once led the Tonight Show band.”

One thing I did learn from ‘The Tonight Show’ is that unless you’re on TV, people don’t know who you are,” Marsalis said.

Most folks who have picked up a horn — or even have a mere passive interest in jazz — in the last 30 years likely know of Marsalis. And if it’s not Branford, it’s brother Wynton or the patriarch of the jazz-playing family, Ellis Marsalis.

It’s been a life of jazz — and, more recently, classical — that keeps the father of three motivated. Not that the scene, the industry or his own body haven’t change through nearly 30 recordings as The Lead Guy and more than 50 recordings as a sideman.

Still, touring — including a March 29 date at the Napa Valley Opera House — is “the same as always,” Marsalis said, “the airlines is more of a drag.”

But he continues. The Marsalis Music label he founded in 2002. He won the 2010 Drama Desk Award for “Best Music in a Advertisement Play” in the Broadway revival of “Fences.” And he released, “The Songs of Mirth and Melancholy” duo with Joey Calderazzo in 2011.

These days Marsalis listens to his kids — a 26-year-old son and daughters 11 and 7 — and realizes perhaps it’s good to be 51. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 12th, 2012 — 10:31am

Portland Festival, Take Five: Marsalis-Calderazzo Duo, Brubeckians

Publication: Rifftides
Author: Doug Ramsey
Date: February 29, 2012

MARSALIS AND CALDERAZZO

Parts of Brandford Marsalis’s and Joey Calderazzo’s Sunday concert of saxophone-piano duets suggested the atmosphere of a 19th century recital somewhere in middle Europe. The beauty of Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall,” Marsalis’s “The Bard Lachrymose” and the short “Die Trauernde” of Brahms encouraged quiet reflection. These are jazz musicians, however—two of the most adventuresome—and a complete afternoon of stately salon music wasn’t in the cards. The impression they left the capacity crowd in Portland’s Newmark Theater was of good friends enjoying the rewards and risks of spontaneous creation.

Some of the music was from their 2011 album Songs Of Mirth And Melancholy. Calderazzo’s “Bri’s Dance” was, among other things, a reminder of the richness of Marsalis’s soprano sax tone, which is wide and nearly without vibrato. It was also an occasion for Calderazzo to unleash the Bach in his left hand and lead into a round of give-and-take exchanges with Marsalis that gained in both rhythm and precision as the action unfolded. Their performance of “Eternal” was at least as long as the 18-minute one on the 2003 Marsalis quartet album of that name and gave, if anything, an even more intimate tug on the emotions. Calderazzo’s loping 16-bar composition “One Way” has the character of something Sonny Rollins might have thought of in his “Way Out West” days. Marsalis’s tenor playing on it had that playful spirit. Read more »

Two philharmonics feature jazz soloists

Publication: Today’s Zaman
Author: Alexandra Ivanoff
Date: February 28, 2012

Borusan & Branford: 20th century gems

Aside from the celebrity of American saxophonist Branford Marsalis appearing here in a classical program with the Borusan Philharmonic, conducted by Sascha Goetzel, there was another cause célèbre, in my opinion, at the unusual concert at Lütfi Kırdar Concert Hall on Feb. 23.

The most familiar classical composer in the line-up was Sergei Prokofiev, with other, lesser-known works by film composer John Williams, Sally Beamish, and Erwin Schulhoff. The latter, a Czech whose music was banned by the Nazis and who perished in a German concentration camp in 1942, produced a unique body of work in his short life, and some of it was during his time as a prisoner. Two of his extraordinary compositions shared the spotlight with the soloist of the evening.

Marsalis, a jazz musician from a prominent New Orleans family of jazz musicians and who was the first bandleader on television’s “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, is another one of the few cross-genre musicians able to play as stunningly in classical repertoire as jazz. His formidable musicianship, wherein he executed many styles with suave über-control and tonal luster, took the stage not as a celebrity, but very much as a team player. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 28th, 2012 — 02:33pm

Portland Jazz Festival 2012: Branford Marsalis and Joe Calderazzo, a MUSICAL Jazz conversation

Publication: Oregon Music News
Author: Tim Willcox
Date: February 24, 2012

Branford Marsalis. Period. That’s pretty much all you need to say. About as well know as any Jazz musician can possibly be, Mr. Marsalis is no stranger to the limelight that comes from performing around the world with his own various groups or with pop-stars like Sting, not to mention being beamed into millions of homes every night as former musical director of The Tonight Show. The eldest brother of New Orleans’ royal family of Jazz, Branford has remained at the top echelon of Jazz, both as a saxophonist and bandleader for a quarter century.

Joey Calderazzo, while perhaps not a household name, is undoubtedly one of the finest and most well-known pianists in all of Jazz. Mr. Calderazzo came to notoriety and critical acclaim in the late 1980s as pianist for the late, great Michael Brecker. Performing with Brecker for nearly twenty years, Calderazzo was added to Marsalis’ quartet line-up in 1998 after the untimely death of Kenny Kirkland. Since then, the pair have played around the globe thousands of times together in The Branford Marsalis Quartet (BMQ).

They will close out this year’s Portland Jazz Festival on Sunday, February 26, 3pm at the Newmark Theater, $28-$58.

After playing as a duo at various celebrity golf tournaments, the pair booked a gig at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival. Some serious sparks must have ignited during that performance because the two have now teamed up for a duo recording on Marsalis Music, the record label owned and operated by Branford. The resulting album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy is full of beauty, space, intimacy, and longing. It’s truly one of the best duo recordings by any pair of musicians in recent memory. Read more »

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo To Perform At The Hobby Center

Publication: MusicDoingGood.org
Date: February 15, 2012

NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist and nine-time Grammy® Award Winner Branford Marsalis joins pianist Joey Calderazzo live, on-stage on March 23, 2012, 8 pm at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Zilkha Hall, 800 Bagby St., 77002. The concert is comprised of selections from their latest CD release, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. This performance is one in a series of four benefit concerts for Music Doing Good in Schools, an innovative, interdisciplinary, musical arts, after-school enrichment program for students ages 7 to 18 who want to take their skills to a higher level. Ticket proceeds also go to support Music Doing Good’s Musical Instrument Aid and Scholarship Fund.

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo have mesmerized audiences with their passionate and profound collaboration since the release of their latest album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (© Marsalis Music, 2011). Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 21st, 2012 — 11:46am

Road Trip! Branford Marsalis + Joey Calderazzo at the Portland Jazz Festival

Publication: Seattle Weekly Blog
Author: Chris Kornelis
Date: February 15, 2012

Last year, Branford Marsalis told Seattle Weekly about “The Problem With Jazz”: why old records sound better than new ones, why the genre feels too much like an exclusive club, and how there’s so little good jazz these days that when he hears something good, “it shocks me.” The interview went viral, sparking myriad Internet debates. Read more »

Grammy Preview: The Best Albums of 2011 From Top to Bottom

Publication: Huffington Post
Author: Michael Giltz
Date: February 10, 2012

Michael included Songs of Mirth and Melancholy from Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo in his best of 2011 list. Follow the link to check out his other choices.

6. WYNTON MARSALIS AND ERIC CLAPTON Play the Blues / BRANFORD MARSALIS AND JOEY CALDARAZZO Songs of Mirth And Melancholy (trad jazz) Surely the Marsalis brothers hate having all their work linked. Oh well. Wynton has found new purpose and a sense of joy via collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson and now Clapton. Their jam session brings out the best in both of them. (Who knew “Layla” would prove so malleable?) And does anyone in jazz have a more gorgeous tone that Branford? For sheer sonic beauty, it’s the best since Getz. HIs album is also a collaboration and it leans more heavily on melancholy than mirth. Great stuff. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 13th, 2012 — 12:49pm

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 »