Branford Marsalis

STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Mirth and Melancholy with Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo

Publication: St. Louis Jazz Notes
Author: Dean Minderman
Date: January 15, 2012

To see Dean’s video picks, visit his original blog post here.

 This week, our video spotlight shines on saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo, who will be in St. Louis for a duo performance on Sunday, January 22 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

In June of last year, Marsalis and Calderazzo released Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a duo CD on the saxophonist’s Marsalis Music label. This tour essentially is a followup to that recording, which received favorable reviews such as this one from Jazz Times’ Jeff Tamarkin and this one from AllAboutJazz.com’s Mark F. Turner. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on January 17th, 2012 — 11:32am

Broadway's Not So Incidental Music for Stick Fly, The Mountaintop and More

Publication: Playbill.com
Author: Stuart Miller
Date: December 9, 2011

Unexpected musicians — Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard — flavor a new crop of plays on Broadway.

As The Mountaintop, Katori Hall’s debut Broadway play, begins, we hear the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. accompanied by a trumpet, a lone horn singing with an elegiac yearning.

Those notes did not come easy.

The music was written by Branford Marsalis, best known as a saxophone player, former “Tonight Show” bandleader, jazz composer and recording artist. But he’s part of a new generation of composers and musicians bringing their talents to Broadway, not by writing showstoppers for musicals but by making subtler additions to straight plays. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 01:21pm

On Music: Branford Marsalis

Publication: The Paris Review Daily
Author: Sam Stephenson
Date: December 8, 2011

It’s sixty-two degrees and raining in downtown Durham, North Carolina, on a Tuesday in mid-October. At noon members of the Branford Marsalis Quartet gather at the former St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal church, built in 1891, now converted into the Hayti Heritage Center, an arts-and-community nonprofit. Their goal is to record a new album over the next few days.

When Marsalis moved his family to Durham from New York a decade ago, the local press assumed he was replacing the retiring director of Duke’s jazz department, saxophonist Paul Jeffrey. But Marsalis, who’d grown up in Louisiana, simply wanted to return to the South and picked Raleigh-Durham because the area had an airport large enough to get him anywhere he needed to go. Later, he began teaching part-time in the noted jazz program at the historically black North Carolina Central University, which is a mile down the road from Hayti.

The original St. Joseph’s sanctuary remains intact: a wood-plank stage, hardwood pews, a balcony, chandeliers, and lots of stained glass. Marsalis began recording albums here in 2006 when he noticed that the room had a unique quality: there is no reverb at low decibel levels; it grows gradually with the sound.

His road manager, Roderick Ward, and sound engineer, Rob Hunter—who have been with Marsalis for twenty-seven and twenty-two years, respectively—spent two days creating a recording studio on the sanctuary’s stage and in adjoining rooms, hauling in seventy crates of equipment and cables and renting a Steinway grand from Hopper Piano and Organ in Raleigh. It’s the sixth time they’ve transformed this space. The advantage of working in Hayti, says Hunter, is that “we can build a studio the way we want to, rather than trying to adapt to an established studio’s specifications.” “The disadvantage,” he adds, chuckling, “is that we have to build a studio.”

I asked Marsalis if he had planned any overarching themes for this recording session. “Musicians who talk about their concept—that’s why all their songs sound the same,” he said. “We select good songs and we play them to the best of our ability. Then we move on to another song and do it again. That’s our concept.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 8th, 2011 — 05:45pm

[live review] Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo at the MFA

Publication: Boston Phoenix’s On The Download
Author: Jon Garelick
Date: December 8, 2011

That’s Branford Marsalis (center) with jazz guitar genius David Gilmore and David’s dad, Marvin — owner of the Western Front, music-enthusiast, and all-around man-about-town. The occasion was the latest in the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Celebrity Lecture Series at the MFA, also known as “Evenings with Creative Minds.” Which is probably why it didn’t show up on the MFA’s concert calendar. That said, there was plenty of great music. Yes, Branford began by talking, in his gloriously off-the-cuff, eloquent, and blunt-spoken style.

Over the past 30 years, jazz fans have grown accustomed to the rants of Branford and younger brother Wynton. But Branford at least has always been a charming and funny gadfly. In a short talk that began with a quote from Faulkner about the expressive powers of music. Marsalis went off on the particular powers of instrumental music. Differing with Faulkner’s contention that music was the easiest way to express emotion directly, Marsalis said that to the contrary, “music is not the easiest way to express anything.” Which is why people always lean toward music with lyrics. But, he said, the difference with instrumental music is that you can never say exactly what it’s about — and that’s it’s strength.

“The idea of instrumental music is difficult and tedious for most lay-persons to get their heads around, and it’s also difficult and tedious for most musicians to get their heads around.” Read more »

Jazz notes: Sinatra at Count Basie, Billy Hart, Los Mas Valientes, Branford Marsalis

Publication: Star-Ledger
Author: Tim Wilkins
Date: December 6, 2011

Marsalis at Kean
Branford Marsalis’ concert on Friday at Enlow Recital Hall of Kean University is the best of both worlds: It presents the tenor saxophonist in the comfortable company of his longtime quartet, with Eric Revis on bass, Justin Faulkner on drums and Joey Calderazzo on piano, but Marsalis and Calderazzo will also perform as a duo (as they appear on their 2011 CD, “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy”). Marsalis is a musical modernist who values lyrical content in jazz, as well as classical music: The CD contains homages to Brahms and Prokofiev. Read more »

Music from on high: How Branford Marsalis composed the moving sounds of Broadway's 'The Mountaintop'

Publication: New York Daily News
By: Greg Thomas
Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011

“The Mountaintop,” in a 16-week Broadway run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, has gotten attention for the star power of the lead actors — Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett — and for the portrayal of a more human, less iconic side of Martin Luther King Jr.’s personality.

According to the play’s composer, the saxophonist, bandleader and record label founder Branford Marsalis, that’s the way it should be.

“Here’s a good metaphor,” he proposes. “We had a talk with some students from the Brooklyn High School for the Arts after one of the previews. And Samuel Jackson came onstage, Angela Bassett came on, and the playwright Katori Hall came on. The kids didn’t ask me anything. That’s the apt metaphor because the music serves the purpose of accentuation or complement.

“Weak music can’t really kill a play. Weak acting can destroy a play, regardless of how good the music is,” Marsalis says.

“For instance, take Prokofiev’s score to the ballet based on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s a fantastic piece of music, and a great ballet. If you put the ballet out there and they’re tripping all over themselves and dancing like crap, nobody’s going to say, ‘That ballet really sucked, but the music was really good.’ They’re going to say, ‘That ballet sucked — period.’ “

In his first Broadway role, Jackson acts the part of Dr. King after he gave the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Jackson was a student at Morehouse College, King’s alma mater, at the time. He served as an usher at King’s funeral and flew to Memphis right after to march with the black sanitation workers on whose behalf King was fighting for a livable wage.

Bassett is a mysterious chambermaid named Camae. She gives a powerful soliloquy at the close of the play that Marsalis uses to give a momentary feel of a musical, in which the music and narration occur simultaneously. The show conjures video images of a future King never would see.

Marsalis based the ensemble music — bass, drums and saxophone — on Bassett’s cadence.

“The music starts off slow and picks up speed, and gets quicker and quicker, and her cadence gets faster and faster, and the images come faster and faster,” he says. “It’s a good effect.”

Cadence, which in Western music refers to characteristic rhythmic patterns, is an important concept that Marsalis uses to explain the difference between Hall’s approach as a playwright and August Wilson’s. The late Wilson is notable for his cycle of plays that dramatize black American life in the 20th century.
Read more »

Submitted by Ben on October 24th, 2011 — 10:54am

Interview with Branford Marsalis: Fearless lieder

Publication: Capital Bop
Author: Giovanni Russonello
Date: October 11, 2011

Branford Marsalis conveys his thoughts in conversation much as he does as a saxophonist. New ideas emerge with steady self-assurance, boldly and unceasingly. When he pauses he does it for emphasis – not because he has lost his train of thought or needs to reorient himself. If the tabloids could be bothered to expound on the scandals of the jazz world, Marsalis might be their go-to guy for headline-grabbing quotes. He’s called avant-garde legend Cecil Taylor’s demands on his audience “self-indulgent bullshit;” opined that “students today are completely full of shit,” overly coddled and under-criticized; and recently said of contemporary jazz, “There’s so little of it that’s actually good that when it’s good, it shocks me.” Marsalis’ hard-nosed perspective comes from decades spent as one of the most respected jazz saxophonists around, but it’s colored by his 10 years in the soap opera of American popular culture, first as a star in Sting’s touring band, then as musical director of the Tonight Show.

For more than 15 years now, Marsalis has focused once again on jazz, releasing a bevy of stellar post-bop albums and founding his own label, Marsalis Music. His latest record, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, a duet with pianist and longtime accomplice Joey Calderazzo, explores the alternately disconsolate and ecstatic world of German classical folk music, or lieder. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 12th, 2011 — 12:49pm

Jazz on WGBH with Eric Jackson: Spotlight on Branford Marsalis

Check out Eric Jackson’s Jazz on WGBH episode highlighting the music of Branford Marsalis. Listen here. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 16th, 2011 — 12:09pm

Ellis Marsalis Music Center crowns Musicians' Village

By Bill Capo
Eyewitness News
August 25, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — There was a standing room only crowd, with actress Renee Zellweger in the audience, for the dedication of the new Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, the centerpiece of Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians Village project in the Ninth Ward.

Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis played key roles in developing the Musicians Village, and the center, but as performers, they called this hall acoustically perfect.

“You’re in the middle of the Upper 9th Ward,” said Connick.  “You’ve got the highest level of state-of-the-art technical facility here. it is like all these worlds coming together.”

“You could bring a string quartet in here, and they could play without one shred of amplification, and everybody in here could hear every note in here regardless of the volume,” raved Marsalis.

“You could also bring Dr. John in here with his full band, and people would love every minute of it.”
Read more »

Ellis Marsalis Center for Music has Many 'Fathers'

THE TMES PICAYUNE/ NOLA.com
August 27, 2011
By Keith Spera

Two days before Thursday’s official unveiling of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, I asked Harry Connick Jr., a driving force behind its creation, if he felt like an expectant father.

“Sort of,” Connick joked. “I guess if I lived in a commune, and it was polygamous, and you didn’t know who the father was.”

His point was, it takes a village to raise a Village. The new,multimillion-dollar arts education center in the Musicians’ Village has many fathers.

Among them were Connick’s close friend, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and the duo’s longtime manager, Ann Marie Wilkins.

She, Connick made clear, handled most of the grunt work — the paperwork, the endless meetings, the logistics, the sweet-talking, the arm-twisting.

“There’s people that are way ahead of me in the credit line for this,” Connick said. “I’ve been a big mouthpiece for it, and tried my best to raise money for it. Ann Marie, they should canonize her. She made this happen. We just do what she says.”

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, under executive director Jim Pate, developed the Musicians’ Village from an idea Marsalis and Connick hatched while driving to Houston soon after Hurricane Katrina to entertain evacuees.