broadway

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 — 12:21pm

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.
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Submitted by Ben on October 24th, 2011 — 09:54am

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis joins The Mountaintop

Publication:    Charged.fm
Author: Demetria Mosley
Date: July 14, 2011

The new Broadway play The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L Jackson and Angela Basset, is set to open October 13th.  The anticipation for the show is quickly building due to Broadway.com’s announcement that composer and saxophonist Branford Marsalis is contributing original music to the production.

Branford Marsalis is a Grammy winning musician and has even been nominated for a Tony for the work he did in the play Fences. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on July 27th, 2011 — 08:25am