classical

Classical or Jazz? Branford Marsalis bridges both worlds of music in Allentown Symphony Orchestra ‘Opening Gala’

Publication: Bethlehem Press
Author: Paul Willistein
Date: October 14, 2016

The 2016-17 season-opening Allentown Symphony Orchestra classical music concerts will be long-remembered for a Lehigh Valley world premiere by a well-known musician, band leader and composer.

Branford Marsalis and the Allentown Symphony perform Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” in an updated transcription of the work.

Marsalis headlines the “Opening Gala” for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra ”Classical Series,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 and 3 p.m. Oct. 16, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The program, conducted by Diane Wittry, Allentown Symphony Orchestra Music Director, in addition to Marsalis performing Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” and Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 Aria (Cantilena) and Dansa (Martelo), includes Villa-Lobos’ Sinfonietta No. 1 (“A memoria de Mozart”), and Beethoven Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”).

The Villa-Lobos’ “Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra” work on the Allentown Symphony concert program has a special place in the repertoire of Marsalis, who grew up in a household filled with music in Breaux Bridge, La. His mother, Dolores, is a jazz singer and substitute teacher. His father, Ellis, is a pianist and music professor. His brothers Jason, Wynton, Ellis III and Delfeayo are also jazz musicians. The New York Times described the Marsalis family as “jazz’s most storied living dynasty.”

“The piece [‘Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra’] is on the first classical record I ever got. I played the piece and liked it and didn’t like it,” Marsalis says during a phone interview the day before he turned 56 on Aug. 26.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 17th, 2016 — 10:30am

What's On: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Time Out Hong Kong
Author: Joshiah Ng
Date: April 20, 2016

As saxophone colossus Branford Marsalis prepares to play a programme of 20th century works with the City Chamber Orchestra, Josiah Ng sits down with the Grammy award-winner to talk Ornette Coleman and to learn about the music behind the man.

There are few musicians who cross genres and have an intimate relationship with myriad musical styles like Branford Marsalis. Born in New Orleans in 1960, Marsalis first began playing at a young age guided by his father, jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, and supported by his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, all jazz giants in and of themselves.

He first cut his teeth with the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers alongside his brother Wynton, and began touring and performing with classical ensembles in 2008. His career includes collaborations with Dizzie Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, The Grateful Dead and Sting, the formation of hip-hop group Buckshot LeFonque in 1997, and a stint as musical director for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

With work across a spectrum of genres, we attempt to find out what powers the musical spirit behind Branford Marsalis, as well as what listeners can expect when he takes to the stage in Hong Kong.

You started in New Orleans as a musician. What did you acquire from that heritage?
New Orleans is the home of funk and some of the hit records of the 1950s came out of New Orleans. I grew up playing a lot of different stuff and that’s what I loved the most about being from there. We played everything, so whatever style of music I’m playing at the moment, all of those other experiences come through, even in classical music. Oftentimes, classical players will say it’s really unusual the way I play music, that the notes tend to be a little shorter, and where I place the beat is different from where they would place it. But that’s just culture.

Was it difficult to navigate those differences in classical music?
Not really. The hardest part is just practicing enough and learning enough to play the music well. If you are not afraid of your weaknesses, then you can embrace the system and embrace the way that you have to learn. Very gradually, you start to improve. But if you’re a person who is afraid of failure, then it’s more difficult to learn.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 22nd, 2016 — 02:39pm

Branford Marsalis’ first Hong Kong gig – it’s going to be a classic

Publication: SouthChinaMorningPost.com
Author: Robin Lynam
Date: April 16, 2016

Playing French and Russian classical music with a chamber music ensemble is probably not the way most of us would have expected saxophonist Branford Marsalis to make his Hong Kong debut.

A member of New Orleans’ first family of jazz – son to pianist Ellis and elder brother to trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jason, and trombonist Delfeayo – the 55-year-old is also best known as one of the finest jazz reed players of his generation, adept on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones.

He leads a highly successful jazz quartet, and also performs in a duet setting with notable pianists including Ellis Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo and Harry Connick Jnr. Over the last couple of years he has also undertaken a number of engagements performing entirely unaccompanied.

Seen by millions around the world in 1985 playing with Sting and Phil Collins at Live Aid, Marsalis is also a familiar face and sound to late night television audiences from his stint in the early 1990s as bandleader for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Still, he is no stranger to the classical music world. Marsalis made his debut in 2010 with the New York Philharmonic, playing Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone. This is one of the two pieces that he will perform with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong at City Hall on April 27.

The musician says that, and Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche suite, which he has recorded, were the orchestra’s choices for the programme.

“I tend to leave those decisions to the orchestras, because they know their markets,” he says over the phone from his home in Durham, North Carolina.

“All markets are different culturally, and they have a sense of what the audience will appreciate.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 18th, 2016 — 08:51am

Classical Classroom, Episode 82: Branford Marsalis Gives Classical Music Jazz Hands

Branford Marsalis recently appeared on Houston Public Radio’s “Classical Classroom” program, interviewed by Dacia Clay. Branford and Dacia speak about the similarities between the jazz and classical genres and Branford’s latest album, In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

Listen to the program via Houston Public Radio

Submitted by Courtney on April 9th, 2015 — 02:10pm

'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 — 11:21am

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 — 09:52am

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 — 12:18pm

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 — 11:24am

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 — 03:45pm