Marsalis Family

Branford Marsalis caps his New Orleans Jazz Fest 2014 with a grand family reunion

Publication: The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
Author: Chris Waddington, NOLA.com
Date: April 26, 2014

Saxophone colossus Branford Marsalis knows how to close out a Saturday (April 26) at the New Orleans Jazz Fest: Bring brother Jason and father Ellis onto the Jazz Tent stage for a chilling account of “St. James Infirmary.” Their whiplash rendition opened with a doom-laden bass solo by Eric Revis, and unscrolled with all the darkness that three natives of New Orleans can bring to a dirge that is in their blood.

It was a glorious climax to a program that showcased Branford Marsalis’ powerful working band. In addition to Revis, the quartet includes Joey Calderazzo on piano and Justin Faulkner on drums. Thanks to them, the energy never dropped when Marsalis stepped away from the spotlight.
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Submitted by Ben on April 28th, 2014 — 10:31am

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

Interview: Ellis and Wynton Marsalis

Publication: NUVO News
Author: Scott Shoger
Date: March 26, 2014

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. — the paterfamilias of the jazz-playing Marsalis clan — says he was “never big on family bands.” Maybe that’s why even after the Marsalis family performed together for the first time during a retirement celebration for Ellis in 2001, they still don’t play as a family all that often. The sole date on their online schedule is their Clowes Hall show. And then they’ll go their separate ways: Wynton with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; Ellis, Branford and Jason with their respective quartets; Delfeayo with the Uptown Jazz Orchestra; spoken word artist Ellis III to wherever it is that he issues his oracular judgments on American life (Wynton will have more on that in a minute).

In short, all the Marsalises lead busy professional and personal lives, so it’s only when Ellis is “interested in doing it,” according to Wynton, that they get together for another show. “He’s at the stage now of his life where we try to get together and touch base with him,” he adds. I talked with both Ellis and Wynton this week: Ellis from New Orleans; Wynton from somewhere on the road between San Francisco and Ames, Iowa (he prefers not to fly when he has a choice). The results are as follow, but a quick bio seems in order:

Born in New Orleans in 1934, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. came up as jazz pianist, playing in a modern style that wasn’t obviously indebted to Dixieland and R&B, before moving into education, eventually teaching on both a high school and university level, notably at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He and his wife, Delores, have six sons, five of whom will perform at Clowes. There’s Branford, an adventurous saxophonist who’s worked with Art Blakey, Sting and the Grateful Dead and briefly served as musical director for The Tonight Show. Wynton, a nine-time Grammy winner, long-time artistic head of Jazz at Lincoln Center and notorious contrarian. Ellis, who contributes spoken word monologues to some Marsalis Family gigs. Trombonist Delfeayo, who has followed directly in his dad’s path in becoming a New Orleans-based educator. And drummer Jason, the youngest Marsalis, who has spent more time performing with his dad than any other son.

Feel free to consult Wikipedia or, hell, the Grove Dictionary of Music for more information; for now, to the interviews!
  

NUVO: So, who calls the shots at a Marsalis Family show? Your dad?

Wynton Marsalis: Yeah, we go along with him, whatever he wants. He sacrificed for us so much, we have so much respect for him that it’s not a problem.

NUVO: Is there any different sort of chemistry when playing with your family vs. playing with other talented musicians?

Wynton: We all grew up listening to our father’s music. But for Branford and I, it’s different because we grew up playing together. We didn’t play with Delfeayo so much because he’s younger than us. And Jason was two when I left home. He’s such a talented musician, with his hearing and the understanding of the concepts of what we play. He grew up playing with my father, so I’m sure there’s a chemistry between them. Read more »

The Marsalis Family to appear with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra at Clowes Hall

Publication: The Indianapolis Recorder
Date: March 20, 2014

A once-in-a-lifetime event will take place at Clowes Memorial Hall on March 29, at 8 p.m. as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs with the Marsalis Family.

Ticket prices start at $50. Tickets are on sale now at the Clowes Hall Box Office, ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-982-2787.

Called ‘the first family of jazz,” The Marsalis Family continues to be the driving force behind jazz education and preservation. In this one-night-only performance, Ellis, Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis will take the stage together and in solo performances with the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Hailed as “an extraordinarily versatile orchestra” by The Los Angeles Times, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is composed of 15 of jazz music’s leading soloists under the leadership of musical director Wynton Marsalis. Drawing from an extensive repertoire that includes original compositions by Marsalis, Ted Nash, and other members of the orchestra, as well as the masterworks of Ellington, Mingus, Coltrane, and other great jazz composers, concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are internationally critically acclaimed. “The finest big band in the world today,” said the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph.

The Marsalis Family story starts in New Orleans, with the birth of Ellis Marsalis Jr. in 1934. Although the city was noted for Dixieland and rhythm-and-blues, Ellis was more interested in the bebop sounds coming from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Read more »

Joyful intent

Publication: The Jerusalem Post
Author: Barry Davis
Date: August 8, 2013

Branford Marsalis is one of the jazz fraternity’s brightest stars and clearest thinkers. The 52- year-old Grammy Award-winning saxophonist will bring a wealth of life experience, as well as scintillating musicianship, with him when he performs at this year’s Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat.

Marsalis will appear on August 20 and 21 with his quartet of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bass player Eric Revis and 21-year-old drummer Justin Faulkner.

Marsalis comes from one of the great jazz families. A native of New Orleans, he has several jazzplaying siblings – including muchfeted trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jason and trombonist Delfeayo – and his 78-year-old father, Ellis, is an iconic pianist and educator. As such, Marsalis got an early start to his musical path in life, although he did not feed off an exclusively jazz-oriented sonic diet.

“Back in those days there was FM radio, and they hadn’t yet worked out how to be commercial,” he recalls. “I heard the full version of “The Court of the Crimson King” [from the 1969 debut LP of British prog rock band King Crimson] and Led Zeppelin and all sorts of great rock music on FM radio. The approach to what could be played on the radio back then on FM radio was different.” But jazz was a constant presence in his early years too, primarily through his father’s influence.

As a young artist plying his way through the ranks, Marsalis benefited from the invaluable experience of working with jazz masters from his father’s generation and before. His incipient skills were honed while performing sideman duties with iconic trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and, along with brother Wynton, during a berth in powerhouse drummer Art Blakey’s long-running Jazz Messengers troupe. Blakey not only helped to guide the young reedman’s musical expression, but he also imparted some of the wisdom he accrued during his career at the pinnacle of the jazz pile.
Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on August 8th, 2013 — 02:17pm

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 Waxes Philosophical

Publication: Washington Informer
Author: Stacy M. Brown
Date: February 13, 2013

Exuding the class often associated with jazz, a member of an esteemed family waxes philosophical about music, Hollywood and growing up in a family of accomplished musicians.

Grammy award winner Branford Marsalis intends to mesmerize the audience Friday evening when he and his quartet perform before jazz aficionados, longtime fans and newcomers to the genre.

Marsalis said there’s a uniqueness about jazz musicians, largely because of the laid back style of the music and the perceived sophistication that it takes to create jazz.

There are a lot of musicians interested in jazz because of the intellectual component. But, a lot of guys also play jazz because that’s all they know how to play,” said Marsalis, who is touring the country with his quartet to bolster his latest CD, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes,” which is currently available at Marsalis’ website, www.branfordmarsalis.com and iTunes.com. The CD has already been named Apple iTunes Instrumental Jazz Album of the Year. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 19th, 2013 — 06:18pm

Excitement and fire

Publication: Dayton City Paper
Author: Khalid Moss
Date: September 18, 2012

Branford Marsalis brings jazz passion to Schuster Center

Harlem-born author, James Baldwin, once mused “…There is no music like that music, no drama like the drama of saints rejoicing, the sinners moaning, the tambourines racing, and all those voices coming together and crying holy unto the lord! I have never seen anything to equal the fire and excitement that sometimes, without warning, fills a church, causing the church to rock.”

Baldwin probably never heard jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis race through the chord changes to “Cherokee” but Marsalis’ music crackles with the same “fire and excitement” that can burn a hole through your soul.

The Marsalis family is the gold standard in modern jazz. Led by its patriarch, New Orleans pianist Ellis Marsalis, the family has established a dynasty in the jazz world that is without peer. Branford is the oldest member of the talented musical clan that includes trumpeter Wynton – composer and leader of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – the electrifying trombonist Delfeayo and the youngest sibling, drummer Jason.

Branford, born Aug. 26, 1960, heads up the high-energy Branford Marsalis Quartet, a group of musicians that understands the gritty particulars behind a sweeping gesture. Marsalis, as a soloist, has strong and sophisticated ideas. A fiendishly gifted composer, he was nominated and won the 2010 New York Drama Desk award for “Best Music In A Play” and nominated for a 2010 Tony Award for “Best Original Music or Score” for the revival of August Wilson’s “Fences.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 21st, 2012 — 10:01am

Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of America’s First Family of Music

Publication: Post-Tribune
Author: Diane Kubiak
Date: April 6, 2012

If recent reviews are an indication, ticket holders can expect a musical treat from jazz master Ellis Marsalis, headliner of the Valparaiso University 27th annual Jazz Festival on Saturday, April 14.

Jazz reviewer Dean Shapiro of “Where Y’At” magazine had high praise for the elder Marsalis’ release of “Jazz at Christmas in New Orleans” last fall. “It invites the listener to tune in with a fresh set of ears,” he wrote.

Although the selections were familiar, “only a master composer/arranger like pianist Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of America’s First Family of Music, could have pulled off such an astounding transformation,” Shapiro wrote.

Marsalis’ musical transformations in other works are done both with respect for the original and with the entire history of the genre at his fingertips. Consider his CD “An Open Letter to Thelonious Monk.” The song “Deceleration” does more than put one into a relaxed mood; the music requires one to relax in order to appreciate the subtle harmonies and dissonances as they keep the listener in that delicious place between surrender to the lyrics and anticipation of its next nuance.

His command of the history of his genre comes forth, too, in the CD “Homecoming,” a reissue of the famous 1984 recording session of Ellis with Eddie Harris on tenor sax. In Ellis’ left hand one can hear the rhythm of New Orleans in the beat of people striding down “Hickory and Cognac Streets,” as the song is entitled.

Marsalis recently shared some of that New Orleans history in a phone interview that included insights into his craft, his teaching, the upbringing of his six sons and the struggle to “make a living” in times that were transforming both musically and socially.

A new Orleans native

Born on Nov. 11, 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, Ellis Marsalis began his formal music studies at age 11 when he attended the Xavier University Junior School of Music. “I was fortunate enough to be born in New Orleans,” he said. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on April 6th, 2012 — 03:14pm

All in the Family

Publication: VanityFair.com
Author: Benjamin Wallace
Date: March 29, 2012

Whether you’re going into your first audition or making your fourth trip to Promises, navigating the entertainment world is a tricky business. Close-knit Hollywood clans such as the Baldwins, Cusacks, Wayanses, and Arquettes have a leg up (not to mention some undeniably good genes), it seems, sharing tips about everything from choosing a project that might strike Oscar gold to avoiding the paparazzi. Whether it’s DNA, shared know-how, or sheer power-in-numbers, some families clearly have that something special. Benjamin Wallace investigates the origin of that je ne sais quoi and the support and rivalry it gives rise to.

Sometimes, the parents are not only enablers but also role models. Ellis Marsalis, father of the Marsalis brothers—Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason—was a jazz musician, but there was no pressure on his sons to follow his path, Wynton says. The only thing the Marsalis parents did to guide their children was to make sure—wisely—that each played a different instrument. “My father didn’t expect us to become musical professionals,” Wynton says. “I didn’t start practicing till I was 12.”

Wynton Marsalis experiences a kind of synchronistic mind meld with his brother Branford. “I just stopped in North Carolina and taught his class,” Wynton says, “and at the end, we played together. There were so many ideas going back and forth, such an understanding. You know you can look at someone, and with a glance know you’re thinking the same thing? And then you look away and think something else, then look back, and you’re thinking the same thing? Me and Branford can play two solos, then play counterpoint to each other, and then reach a point where we play the same five or six notes in a row. That’s almost unbelievable. It’s a fascinating thing.”

To read the rest of Mr. Wallace’s interesting article about fame and families, please visit VanityFair.com. Read more »