four mfs playin' tunes

Marsalis Music Interviews Art Director Steven Jurgensmeyer

Steven Jurgensmeyer began his career as the Art Director at the trailblazing record label Rykodisc, working closely with Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bob Mould, Robert Cray and Morphine, among others. He joined Rounder Records as Creative Director, working with musicians such as Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, Harry Connick Jr, and Madeleine Peyroux. He is now the principal in his own studio and has worked with Carly Simon, Dan Zanes, Richard Lewis, the legendary Jamaican label Studio One and, of course, Branford Marsalis. His work can be seen at www.stevenjurgensmeyer.com.

Marsalis Music: You were the Art Director for Branford’s two latest recording projects, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy and Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. Could you please explain your concept for each project?
 
Steven Jurgensmeyer: It was a great pleasure working directly with Branford on Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. He sent me a CD of the music and asked me to “design what I heard.” Upon hearing the music, two things struck me pretty immediately; one was the openness of the music, and the space “between” the notes. The second was the obvious familiarity and intimacy between Branford and Joey. So… you had two really contrasting ideas at play here, and I really wanted to create something beautiful, that would stand the test of time and sit comfortably amongst the classic album covers from Blue Note and Prestige. I knew a sense of scale was going to be a key to success; luckily, we were able to utilize this wonderful, towering wall in the Museum of Fine Arts’ new “Art of the Americas” wing. I loved the stone and the natural light; it really filled the “spacious” role, but also became another player in the composition. The “other thing” I needed to capture was the familiarity Branford and Joey share as musicians. They brought that naturally with their personalities and relationship. There was a lot of clowning around (as the outtakes attest!), but their body language in the final shot provided exactly what was needed. Photographer Stephen Sheffield caught that moment; I knew immediately that this shot was the cover. The typography is a nod to the simplicity and grace of that classic era of jazz sleeves and to the album’s title. This cover is my favorite piece in my career to date.

With Four MFs, we wanted to illustrate the importance of each band member and their musical personality and contributions in this particular quartet, as they had really jelled into a formidable unit. I knew I wanted “motion” to serve as the metaphor for the music and, in turn, highlight each musician in focus, while the others “played” around him or her. A friend recommended photographer Eric Ryan Anderson, who uses a lot of motion techniques; he was game and the shoot was on. As with any shoot, no matter how tightly scripted, you always have to improvise and we worked the quartet hard to get those shots! It was an incredibly difficult shoot; a lot of fun, to be sure, but a long day and hard work.

Marsalis Music: What was the biggest challenge during the Four MFs shoot?
 
SJ: The biggest challenge of theFour MFs shoot was keeping the guys moving and staying out of the subject’s way so that he remained the focus. It’s not easy to plan and direct spontaneity! Read more »

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Publication: Relix
Author: Jeff Tamarkin
Date: October/November issue

When preparing for their new album, the Branford Marsalis Quartet—with recently recruited drummer Justin Faulkner making his recorded debut with the band (the others are bassist Eric Revis and pianist Joey Calderazzo)—decided to focus not so much on the in-your-face virtuosity that’s always been incontestable, but on song structures. Some might argue that, for all of its dexterity, this band has always known its way around a lyrical melody, but rarely did one come away from a Branford Marsalis set humming. That’s doable here: Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 25th, 2012 — 10:32am

Branford Marsalis: Four MFs Playin’ Tunes

Publication: Financial Times
Author: Mike Hobart
Date: August 31, 2012

The sax-and-rhythm quartet’s first studio recording with drummer Justin Faulkner has all the thrills of their live performances
Five Stars

Branford Marsalis’s equal-partners sax-and-rhythm quartet’s first studio recording with young drummer Justin Faulkner has all the thrills of their live performances. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 4th, 2012 — 11:48am

Branford Marsalis: Four MFs Playing Tunes

Publication: JazzWrap
Author: Stephan Moore
Date: August 29, 2012

Branford Marsalis can always be counted on for great album titles in addition to the superb quality of the music (e.g. I Heard You Twice The First Time). With his latest, Four MFs Playing Tunes, I think he might not be able to top himself this time. Yes it is a very striking title, but the music and development of the quartet is sensational.

The core of the group has remained the same for years. The difference now is the refreshing presence of Justin Faulkner. Replacing longtime bandmate, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Faulkner provides an extra boost of energy that the group just absorbs into what was already a very creative and electric force.
Submitted by Courtney on August 30th, 2012 — 10:53am

Branford Marsalis to play Grace Cathedral

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Jesse Hamlin
Date: August 26, 2012

Branford Marsalis decided to quit his coveted job as the musical director of “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno in 1994 after playing Jacques Ibert’s concerto for alto saxophone with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of another far-ranging jazz musician, Bobby McFerrin. The performance pleased the audience and critics, but not the artist.

It was dreadful, man. I hated the way I played,” says Marsalis, a forthright and funny man who’s unsparing in his praise for things he admires and blunt about those he doesn’t. “My tone was not good and my technique was shabby. I had to choose - I was either going to be a musician or stay in show business. After that concert, I decided I wanted to be a musician.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 27th, 2012 — 10:09am

CD Reviews: Jazz

Publication: Toronto Sun
Author: Darryl Sterdan
Date: August 20, 2012

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes
Jazz
4 stars out of 5

They aren’t just any four MFs. Along with Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxes, you’ve got longtime pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis, plus wunderkind drummer Justin Faulkner. And they’re not just any tunes: This is a strong collection of new post-bop, peppered with standards, New Orleans fare and a Monk classic — all handled masterfully yet approachably. Find it.

Download: The Mighty Sword; Teo

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 21st, 2012 — 08:56am

Review: 'Four MFs' have strong melodies

Publication: The Herald-Sun (Durham)
Author: Cliff Bellamy
Date: August 10, 2012

Branford Marsalis Quartet. “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” (Marsalis Music)

In film director Charles Cardello’s wonderful documentary about the new recording by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Marsalis and other members of the quartet discuss how records used to be made. Marsalis talks about Frank Sinatra singing some 20 tunes in a marathon session with orchestra. “When you listen to those Miles Davis records like ‘Nefertiti’ and ‘Miles Smiles,’ ” Marsalis continues, “they just brought those tunes in and played them. They never even played them on the road and it’s killing. I want to be like them.”

“Killing” applies to the music on “Four MFs Playing Tunes,” released this week. The record is the third the quartet has recorded at St. Joseph’s Church at Hayti Heritage Center, along with Marsalis’ duo record with pianist Joey Calderazzo, “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy.” On this record, the quartet is made up of veterans Marsalis on saxophones, Calderazzo on piano, and Eric Revis on bass, with relative newcomer Justin Faulkner on drums. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 15th, 2012 — 09:17am

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Publication: Roots Music Report
Author: Duane Verh
Date: August 13, 2012

If this disc’s title suggests a casual session, be assured the sax wielding sibling of the storied Marsalis clan and his partners provide plenty of top-flight creativity also. The breezy, intelligent swing of the leadoff track, “The Mighty Sword”, makes this dual point, and additionally serves up the first of pianist Joey Calderazzo’s several scene-stealing choruses. The spirit of play and invention continues in the quirky blues that follows, “Brews”, courtesy of the leader’s animated soprano. Marsalis’ straight-ahead tenor lights the fire that brings the rhythm section to a boil on “Whiplash”. Back on soprano, he and Calderazzo make a dusky, delicate dance of the ballad “As Summer Into Autumn Slips”. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 14th, 2012 — 10:20am

Review: Drummer propels Branford Marsalis Quartet

Publication: NewYorkTimes.com & HuffingtonPost.com
Author: Charles J. Gans
Date: August 13, 2012

Branford Marsalis Quartet, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” (Marsalis Music)

Don’t let the understated title of the new Branford Marsalis Quartet album mislead you into thinking this is some loosely arranged jam session. Saxophonist Marsalis leads one of the most cohesive, intense small jazz ensembles on the scene today. The group’s three long-standing members – Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis – each contribute original tunes to “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” and there are covers of Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and the 1930s ballad “My Ideal.”

The quartet’s tight interplay reflects that the group has undergone only one lineup change in more than a decade. That came in 2009 when Marsalis’ collaborator of a quarter century, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, left and was replaced by then 18-year-old high school senior Justin Faulkner, who propels the band with new energy on his studio recording debut with the quartet. Faulkner confirms his rising-star status as he engages in intricate dialogues with the tenor saxophonist and pianist on Marsalis’ “Whiplash” before climaxing with a riveting, powerhouse drum solo. On the next track, Calderazzo’s ethereal ballad “As Summer Into Autumn Slips,” the drummer displays his finesse with his soft mallet-and-cymbal accompaniment.

Submitted by Courtney on August 13th, 2012 — 03:21pm

Branford Marsalis Quartet - Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Publication: TheJazzPage.com
Author: Glenn Daniels
Date: August 10, 2012

In a year that has seen the creation of some great recordings, the latest release by Branford Marsalis stands as one of our favorites of 2012, and perhaps, a favorite of all of Marsalis’ productions. On Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, the saxophonist and his solid quartet sound as cohesive as any band can sound. The dynamic lineup includes Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Harland on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. The compositions on the project have fantastic range and depth, with swinging numbers and a beautifully contemplative down tempo numbers. This is a work of incredible musical virtuosity and a presentation of high artistry. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 10th, 2012 — 08:48am