classical

'Well-Tempered' Marsalis brings Baroque classics to BU

Publication: Press & Sun Bulletin
Author: Chris Kocher
Date: October 22, 2014

When most people think of Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis, the first thing that comes to mind is jazz — and rightly so.
 
After all, he shares his birthplace with jazz music itself — New Orleans — and he grew up in a talented musical household. His pianist father, Ellis Marsalis Jr., earned critical praise for his modernist take on the distinctly American genre and, as an educator, taught others how to swing. It’s no surprise that Branford and brothers Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums) took up the family business, too.
 
However, he says, “classical music has always been an interest for me. Performing it is something that has developed over the last 10 years, but I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid.”
 
What he needed was the opportunity, and that developed organically out of his 2001 album “Creation” with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which featured works by Ravel, Milhaud and Debussy. Since then, among various jazz projects, he has toured the United States with the Philarmonia Brasileira (performing works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos) and performed with the New York Philharmonic.
 
His latest collaboration is a 20-city tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia dubbed “Marsalis Well-Tempered,” which comes to Binghamton University’s Anderson Center on Tuesday night. The program focuses on Baroque masterpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries, transcribing oboe or violin solos for saxophone on pieces by Albinoni, Bach, Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and others.
 
His latest album is a more singular affair: “In My Solitude” (to be released, coincidentally, on Tuesday by OKey Records) features a recording of a solo performance in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.
 
In an interview from Los Angeles last week, Marsalis spoke of the challenges of classical music versus jazz, as well as some of the best advice his dad ever gave to him.
 
QUESTION: What qualities do classical music and jazz share, and how are they different?
 
MARSALIS: I think the qualities that all styles of music share are that people like songs with a good beat and a strong melody, regardless of the genre.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 24th, 2014 — 12:21pm

Going for Baroque: Branford Marsalis, chamber group in Seattle on Oct. 4

Publication: The Seattle Times
Author: Tom Keogh
Date: October 3, 2014

A concert of Baroque saxophone: What can that possibly sound like?
 
A Seattle audience is about to find out.
 
So is the saxophonist.
 
“We have not yet started rehearsals, so I can’t presume what we will sound like,” says Branford Marsalis, the Grammy Award-winning musician and composer.
 
The renowned and ubiquitous saxophone player, who has performed with everyone from Miles Davis to Public Enemy to the New York Philharmonic, is kicking off a 20-city tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at Seattle’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts on Saturday (Oct. 4).
 
In an email interview days before Marsalis and the 50-year-old ensemble began rehearsing, the leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet looked ahead to a Meany program of early music from across Europe. The bill includes works by J.S. Bach, Henry Purcell, Tomaso Albinoni, Louis-Antoine Dornel and others.
 
“All of the pieces are outside my comfort zone, and I relish the challenge,” Marsalis says. “That said, I’m really digging the French Baroque stuff.”

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 7th, 2014 — 10:52am

Branford Marsalis times two

Publication: Maclean’s
Author: Paul Wells
Date: July 2, 2014

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is playing in Ottawa this Saturday to open the Music and Beyond Festival. In the first half he’ll perform as a soloist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, playing Alexander Glazunov’s concerto for alto saxophone. After intermission the orchestra will clear out and Marsalis will play jazz with his quartet.

He’s appearing more and more often as an orchestral soloist lately, but does he often do this thing where he plays both classical and jazz in the same night? “No, I don’t do it ever, really,” Marsalis told me the other day over the phone from his home in North Carolina. “No one else ever asked me to do that. So it never happened.”

Is it hard to switch between classical and jazz contexts? “It used to be more difficult 10 years ago when I first started playing [classical music], because I had to marshal so much of my brain to focus in on playing. Everything was just so fast, you know. Now that my brain is able to process the information, slow it down a bit so it’s not as bad as it used to be, you know, my focus is better. I don’t feel as overwhelmed in that environment as I did 10 years ago.”

Some people might be surprised that for the three-time Grammy winner, who first rose to public notoriety in his brother Wynton Marsalis’s quintet more than 30 years ago, it’s the classical music that poses a challenge. After all, classical music is written down, you get to rehearse every note before you perform for an audience — what’s the problem?

My question was intentionally naive, designed to provoke, and it worked a charm. “Well, most people that would say that know absolutely nothing about classical music,” Marsalis said. “They don’t understand what it’s like to be in that pit. The similar thing would be, I’ve had the joy of watching people watch soccer and say, ‘What’s the big deal? You run around. You kick a little ball. It’s not like American football where you’ve got to hit people and you’ve got to do this.’ And I say, ‘Well let’s go play.’ I called a friend of mine in California, we joked about it. We went out to play. And none of us was good but we were playing. And he said, ‘I gotta tell you man, I’m humbled. I didn’t think I was going to survive it.’ And I said, ‘Well, that remains to be seen, man. That’s just the first half.’ ” Read more »

From jazz to classical, Branford Marsalis stays busy

Publication: The Advocate
Author: John Wirt
Date: March 27, 2014

Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis just returned to the U.S. from London. He spent challenging days there studying Baroque ornamentation with flutist Stephen Preston. This week he’s playing jazz gigs in Puerto Rico, Florida and Indiana. Next week he’s in Baton Rouge and Florida again. The following week he goes to Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Marsalis, the eldest son of New Orleans’ modern-jazz pianist, composer and educator Ellis Marsalis, moves between playing jazz with his Branford Marsalis Quartet and performing classical concertos with symphony orchestras. He also composes music for the Broadway stage and teaches.

Before his two Wednesday shows at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge, Marsalis will join his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, their father, Ellis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in concert Saturday at Butler University in Indianapolis.

The Marsalis family and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra being the great jazz musicians they are, only a minimum of musical preparation is necessary for the Indianapolis concert.

A Marsalis family concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for instance, which can be heard in the 2009 album, “Music Redeems,” came together at 2 a.m. the night before the event.

“Wynton and I both flew straight into D.C., from Europe that day,” Marsalis said. “We know what we’re doing.”

An accomplished musician at 53, the Durham, N.C.-based Marsalis nevertheless makes time to practice hours a day, every day. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 28th, 2014 — 01:18pm

A conversation with Branford Marsalis

Publication: Cincinnati.com
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: March 14, 2013

Yesterday, I sat down for a talk with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who was backstage at Music Hall, getting ready to go to CCM to meet with students. He’s in a residency this week, and his activities include school visits and a performance in Friday’s “Classical Roots” concert in Music Hall. He was intellectual, thoughtful and pleasant as he talked.

Here are a few things that were on his mind:

Surprises about Cincinnati: Snow in mid-March was surprising and depressing.  I watch enough baseball to know that in April, they’re out there freezing to death. It was 60 degrees when I left N. Carolina.

I was surprised when I first got here about what a prominent role the arts play. In so many cities, the arts are things they are trying to expunge and slash. We live in an era where there is no differentiation between arts and entertainment. To actually see a city that is focusing on the arts and making it a major role in the development of their children, it’s amazing.

The former Tonight Show bandleader’s  return last month to the show:  It was a homecoming. It’s been four or five years. In TV, five seconds is long. For me, I don’t gain anything by going back. People who stay up and watch TV at 12:30 a.m. don’t run out the next day and buy a CD.  For me, it was a personal homecoming to see Jay and see friends, and I have a lot of friends. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on March 18th, 2013 — 12:24pm

Branford Marsalis engages in classical, jazz with the CSO

Publication: Cincinnati.com
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: December 1, 2012

The symphony went hip Friday night.

That’s not hard to do when you have one of the finest jazz musicians in the country performing with you.

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, a three-time Grammy-winner, NEA Jazz Master, and former “Tonight Show” bandleader, was soloist in the American premiere of a concerto for alto saxophone with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. But he took it a step further, sitting in with the orchestra to play the saxophone solos in Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije” Suite, which opened the evening.

Even though Marsalis easily crossed over into classical, it was no surprise that he seemed to be having the most fun in his encore, Charlie Parker’s bebop “Au Privave,” with CSO musicians Matt Zory, Jr., on bass and Marc Wolfley on drums. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 3rd, 2012 — 04:45pm

Classical Blast: Branford Marsalis flashes his Classical chops with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this weekend

Publication: CityBeat
Author: Brian Baker
Date: November 28, 2012

The brothers Marsalis are an interesting study in dichotomy. Wynton, the younger, is an absolute giant in the Jazz community and he has no qualms about his genre elitism, vociferously and famously proclaiming the need to maintain Jazz’s purity and sanctity and rejecting anything outside of his definition (although he teamed up with Eric Clapton for an excellent Blues/Jazz hybrid concert at Lincoln Center last year and with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones for a Ray Charles tribute in 2009).

Branford, the elder, who has a doctorate in music, views music through a much broader lens, embracing Pop, Jazz, Classical and anything in the vicinity, which has led to a long association with Sting, a brief stint as Jay Leno’s bandleader on The Tonight Show and sessions and gigs with artists as varied as Miles Davis, Bela Fleck, Harry Connick Jr., Dave Matthews Band and the Dead.

When the question is posed as to the reason for the brothers’ stylistic divergence, Branford Marsalis has a ready, if not totally enlightening, answer.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 29th, 2012 — 01:03pm

Branford Marsalis shows classical side

Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: November 25, 2012

Branford Marsalis may be best known as the former music director and bandleader for NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in the 1990s. But his artistry runs much deeper.

He’s a member of a distinguished New Orleans jazz dynasty that began with his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. Branford, a saxophonist and the oldest of his siblings – who include trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason – established his reputation while still a student at the Berklee College of Music, working with jazz luminaries Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry.

Since then, he’s appeared with a who’s-who of jazz giants. He has also partnered with musicians as diverse as Sting, the Grateful Dead, and the hip-hop group Public Enemy. The Grammy Award-winner founded his own record label a decade ago, and records with his own Branford Marsalis Quartet.

The other side of this artist is that he is as comfortable discussing Shostakovich as he is Miles Davis.

Marsalis made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2010, the same year that his score for the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences” earned a Tony Award nomination for “Best Original Score Written for the Theater.” He has appeared as a soloist with orchestras around the world in music by composers such as Copland, Debussy and Darius Milhaud.

This year, Marsalis is a creative director for the Ascent Series for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Read more »

A Few Words with Branford Marsalis

Publication: DANSR.com
Author: Sean Packard
Date: November 2, 2012

NEA Jazz Master and Grammy Award®-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis has established himself as a world class artist – both jazz and classical, as a bandleader, composer, and as head of the Marsalis Music Record Label.  Marsalis leads one of the finest jazz quartets today, and performs frequently as a classical soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and the New York Philharmonic.   Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 5th, 2012 — 01:40pm

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