wynton marsalis

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 »

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

CT.com Interview: Saxophonist Branford Marsalis

Publication: CT.com
Author: Michael Hamad
Date: February 4, 2013

In his 52 short years on this planet, what hasn’t saxophonist Branford Marsalis done? Composing Broadway scores and movie soundtracks; recording with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey and his brother Wynton; running the Tonight Show band, when Jay Leno took over from Johnny Carson; jamming with the Grateful Dead (check out the exquisite “Eyes of the World” on Without a Net) and subsequently venturing out into the jam-band world with Buckshot LeFonque; teaching college; winning Grammys; starting a record label; bringing aid to his native New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; leading his own quartet for more than a decade. (Whew.)

Sometime around 1996, Marsalis decided to make his quartet — longtime members Joey Calderazzo on piano and Eric Revis on bass, and relative newcomer, Justin Faulkner, on drums — his primary focus. Last year they released the aptly titled Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, which was named Best of 2012 Instrumental Jazz Album of the Year by Apple’s iTunes. He’ll bringing the powerful, musically telepathic group to UConn’s Jorgensen Center for a single night on Feb. 7.

Marsalis spoke to CT.com by phone about his new recording and the highlights of a long career in music.

Q: You’ve been with your quartet for more than a decade (drummer Justin Faulker came on board more recently). When rock groups are together for a long time, nobody bats an eyelash, but when it happens in the jazz world, it’s perceived as more of a rarity. What’s the secret behind keeping a band together?

A: Rock groups stay together for a variety of reasons, mostly that it’s a lot of money to walk away from if you become one of those groups. With a jazz group, all of the musicians have to see potential for growth. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 5th, 2013 — 11:03am

Branford Marsalis talks about his famous family, stardom and playing with Westchester Philharmonic

Publication: LoHud.com
Author: Latoya West
Date: May 17, 2012

Branford Marsalis has accomplished great things since he first picked up the saxophone. He has played with some of the world’s greatest musicians, led the “Tonight Show” band, won Grammy Awards and composed music for Broadway shows.

Now, one of the shining stars of “jazz’s first family,” is coming to Westchester to play with the Westchester Philharmonic as they close out their 2011-2012 season at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College this weekend.

“I have a couple pieces I am going to play,” he tells us. “I’m going to learn a lot and I’m going to have a good time.”

Before you go to the show, here are six things you might not have known about the man behind the saxophone.

1. In Branford’s opinion, he didn’t really grow up in a musical family.
Sure, his older brother Wynton Marsalis is a superstar in the world of jazz. And yes, music seems to be in his family’s DNA. But Marsalis says he didn’t grow up in a “musical family” as most people would assume. “That’s the myth and you can’t stop the myth sometimes,” he says. “I grew up in a regular family with too many kids arguing and fighting, driving mom crazy…with fraternal football games that often turned bloody. Our memories as kids weren’t about us sitting around practicing all day. I mean Wynton practiced a lot, starting when he was 13. But that was his choice.”

2. Contrary to media reports, there was never any sibling rivalry between him and Wynton.
“As far as music goes, we don’t play the same instrument, so what would be the reason for the rivalry?” Marsalis says. But that doesn’t mean the brothers never had tension as they defined their individual career paths. “ Wynton was upset when I left his band to join Sting’s band and then the media started talking about a rivalry,” Marsalis recalls. “But it was less of a rivalry and more of a profound ideological disagreement, which over time resolved itself as those things often do among family members.”

3. He wanted to be a history teacher.
“I was going to school majoring in history. I wanted to be a school teacher,” Marsalis says. But he credits his father for talking him into pursuing his music dream at age 19. “He said when you’re married with kids, you don’t want to be sitting around wondering if you could have done it,” Marsalis recalls. “So I moved to Boston for 1 1/2 years and went to the Berklee School of Music and then I went to New York after that. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on May 18th, 2012 — 03:22pm

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 »

The Marsalis Family: Music Redeems – review

Publication: The Guardian.co.uk
Author: John Fordham
Date: May 5, 2011

This unexpectedly quirky live get-together by the Marsalis family, with Harry Connick Jr among the guests, was caught at the Kennedy Center to commemorate the patriarch, pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis’s receipt of a lifetime achievement award. It’s also a fundraiser for the new Center for Music bearing his name in New Orleans, and was made to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on the family’s home town. All those honourable motivations might have turned the gig into a restrainedly respectful affair, but in fact it’s a hoot – Read more »

Branford Marsalis, Alexander Glazunov, And The Commodores

Publication: Lament for a Straight Line
Author: Jim Macnie
Date: February 23, 2011

Steve Smith says Branford Marsalis brought a “gracious poise” to Glazunov’s “Concerto for Alto Saxophone And String Orchestra” last week at a New York Phil show. A few weeks prior, when I sat down with the five Marsalis men who are working musicians, the subject of growing up with the Glazunov cropped up, too. Patriarch Ellis, a longtime educator and superb jazz pianist, ruminated on the rigors of addressing classical works. And then Branford and brother Wynton weighed in with a quip or two. The entire Q&A is coming out in the April issue of Down Beat, due in two weeks. Here’s part of the piece that had to be edited out for space reasons. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on February 28th, 2011 — 04:55pm

Branford Marsalis talks "Music Redeems" and Party Songs

Publication: Artist Direct
Interviewer: Rick Florino
Date: October 5, 2010

There’s no better gift to dad than bringing the whole family together.

Jazz stalwarts, the Marsalis family, assembled at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. last year to honor dear old dad, Ellis Marsalis. Ellis is a recipient of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and he’s been integral to the genre since he first picked up an instrument. The Marsalis family sold out the Kennedy Center for the event, and all proceeds were donated to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. In addition, team Marsalis recorded the show and released it as Music Redeems.
Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on October 6th, 2010 — 12:44pm

Branford at 50

Publication: The Gig
Author: Nate Chinen
Date: August 26, 2010

You read that headline correctly: saxophonist Branford Marsalis was born half a century ago today. Some of us will want a minute to absorb that information. Take one if you need it.

Branford has a new album out this week with the Marsalis Family, which is naturally part of his claim to fame. That’s not what I want to talk about here, though. I’d like to talk about the specific achievements of Ellis’ eldest son: as a saxophonist, as a bandleader, and as a public figure besides. (Forgive me, folks, this may get a little personal.)

To view this blog entry in full, please click HERE!