Kuumbwa

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet delivers knockout punch

Publication: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Richard Scheinin
Date: April 27, 2014

SANTA CRUZ — As the Branford Marsalis Quartet opened its late show Monday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, drummer Justin Faulkner jabbed like a boxer. Hook. Uppercut. Jab, jab, jab. The band’s music was raw and rumbling, almost violent — but played with such scarifying control as to convey a sense of elegance, too. It was Muhammad Ali music: float, sting, deliver the knockout punch.

Composed by Joey Calderazzo, the group’s pianist, the tune was titled “The Mighty Sword,” which tells you all you have to know.

For the next 90 minutes — it was the second of two sold-out shows, preceding a two-night run in San Francisco — saxophonist Marsalis and his group engaged a strategy of virtuosity and cockiness, clarity and clout. It covered a lot of territory — bebop and 1970s Keith Jarrett rubato, as well as a tune associated with Louis Armstrong — but it kept coming back to the power-punch and to its own brand of blowtorch Coltrane intensity. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 30th, 2014 — 11:13am

Review: Branford Marsalis Quartet: tour-de-force blend of order and mayhem

September 21, 2011
MercuryNews.com
By Richard Scheinin

During Tuesday night’s opening set by the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, I sat in the front row, directly in front of the drums. This meant experiencing, for the next 75 minutes, the unremitting physical force and inventive flow of 20-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner, whose playing sums up the ethos of this great band: order and mayhem, glued together as one. The order inside the mayhem; the mayhem inside the order.

Branford MarsalisThe quartet — which you can see through Sunday at Yoshi’s-San Francisco — played two sold-out shows at the Kuumbwa, the little Santa Cruz club, where Marsalis’s group always plays as if it’s just won the lottery. This was its first visit to Santa Cruz in over two years; the last time through, Faulkner, straight out of a high school band program in Philadelphia, had just joined the group.

On “Teo,” by Thelonious Monk, Faulkner began Tuesday with the easy bounce-and-snap swing of Monk’s old drummers; someone like Frankie Dunlop. Then he threw in a New Orleans second-line flourish and moved toward a swirling Elvin Jones space, which is where this group lands a lot.

And now Marsalis entered with his solo on tenor saxophone, which he built patiently, even meticulously: Long, long notes, giving way to exhilarating bebop lines, tonguing just about every note, like old-time Sonny Rollins. Then he let loose, escalating into a post-Coltrane blast furnace — and in the middle of this holy-roller mayhem, he and pianist Joey Calderazzo glanced at one another and simultaneously played two or three bars of melody from Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.”

It was surreal, as if they had stepped into an adjoining room. Were they sharing a private joke? Showing off? Or maybe their brains are just linked after 13 years of sharing the bandstand.

A
few observations: Marsalis has a massive sound; he doesn’t need to get anywhere close to a microphone to be heard. Also, he makes the saxophone sound like a woodwind; there’s this rich woodsy-ness to his tone. His delivery is urgent and beautiful. Ditto for bassist Eric Revis. Every note that he plays is a gem — fat tone, perfect pulse, like Jimmy Garrison. He never overplays; he seems to arrive at each note inevitably, as if it is the result of long, silent consideration.
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