Branford Marsalis News

Albums of the week (Oct 17-23) - Jazz: Branford Marsalis, In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

Publication: Evening Standard
Author: Jane Cornwell
Date: October 17, 2014

Three-time Grammy winner Marsalis has long explored the creative possibilities of the jazz quartet and duo setting; his warm, expressive saxophone playing has enhanced many a classical ensemble and transformed countless rock and pop performances. Now comes the American maestro’s first unaccompanied solo album, recorded live inside an iconic San Francisco landmark with vaulted ceiling arches and a seven-second delay. And what a glorious affair it is: spare, melodic and perhaps inevitably spiritual. Whether playing soprano, alto or tenor saxophone on tracks including Hoagy Carmichael’s evergreen Stardust, his own inventive The Moment I Recall Your Face and a handful of soaring improvisations, Marsalis is unhurried, respectful but direct. An intimate work that eschews virtuosic flurries in favour of meaning and feeling.

Submitted by Courtney on November 6th, 2014 — 10:06am

Branford Marsalis – In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral – Sony/Okeh, 64:57 – [10/28/14] *****

Publication: Audiophile Audition
Author: Jeff Krow
Date: October 26, 2014

Playing a solo recital concert in a sacred and iconic cathedral is quite an undertaking. Such is the task that the adventurous saxophonist Branford Marsalis took on when he played in a solo setting at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on Oct. 5, 2012. This famous cathedral was the setting for Duke Ellington’s famous Sacred Concerts in the 1960s, and since 1983 it has been used for jazz, baroque, and classical concerts. Its acoustics are marvelous and its setting is inspiring to both musicians and audiences. Its beauty is comparable to cathedrals in Europe. [And it has an outdoor labrinyth…Ed.]
 
For his repertoire Branford included composed and improvised material ranging from Bach, compositions by Steve Lacy and Ryo Noda, and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” Marsalis titled his improvisations simply “Improvisations 1-4.” They were composed “on the spot” based on the vibe that was present in the cathedral at the time. 

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Submitted by Courtney on November 5th, 2014 — 12:22pm

'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.

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Submitted by Courtney on October 24th, 2014 — 11:21am

'Well tempered' Marsalis brings jazz, pop, Baroque to Lexington stage

Publication: Kentucky.com
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: October 23, 2014

The true charm of the new Branford Marsalis album In My Solitude isn’t its meshing of jazz and classical genres, although the tightrope walk the celebrated saxophonist takes between the two is quite fascinating.
 
No, the most arresting aspect to the live recording, which will be released Tuesday, is its sound. With no accompaniment whatsoever, save for the acoustics of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the music of Marsalis sounds ancient — ghostly, even.
 
It could be the Wayne Shorter-like expression he conjures on soprano sax during the album-opening take on Steve Lacy’s Who Needs It or the luscious warmth that envelops I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together (the closing theme music from The Carol Burnett Show) or the glorious echo that surrounds all 10 tunes with a subtle, timeworn sheen.
 
On first listen, In My Solitude recalls the otherworldly recordings the great Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek cut for the European ECM label, especially the glorious works where he replaced a conventional rhythm section with the magnificent vocal command of the Hilliard Ensemble. True to ECM form, the resulting music leaned neither to the Hilliards’ love of tone and classical nuance or the Nordic blasts of improvisational chill that were earmarks of Garbarek’s playing.
 
What those records discovered was a fascinatingly stark musical world in between where the unison playing sounded like it had traveled through centuries from a land equally distant.
 
Marsalis’ playing on In My Solitude isn’t as removed or unsettled as Garbarek’s, but it’s just as beautifully indefinable. 

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Submitted by Courtney on October 23rd, 2014 — 01:15pm

10/19: Branford Marsalis plays Baroque sax in Scottsdale

Publication: AZCentral.com
Author: Kerry Lengel
Date: October 13, 2014

Branford Marsalis is the eldest brother in America’s “first family of jazz,” but jazz is just one corner of his resume.
 
The sax man has played with pop artists ranging from Sting to the Grateful Dead to Public Enemy and fused jazz and hip-hop with his own band, Buckshot LeFonque. He served as Jay Leno’s bandleader on “The Tonight Show” for three years, recorded the soundtrack for Spike Lee’s film “Mo’ Better Blues” and composed music for August Wilson’s “Fences” on Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination.
 
Marsalis’ career embodies the famous quote from Duke Ellington that there are only two kinds of music — “good music and the other kind.” And for the past decade, Marsalis’ focus has been on performance territory that was first staked out by his kid brother, trumpet player Wynton: classical music.
 
On Sunday, Oct. 19, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, he will perform Baroque selections by Bach, Telemann and Albinoni with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. The concert is dubbed “Marsalis Well Tempered.”
 
Marsalis, who turned 54 in August, spoke by phone about taking a deep dive into the classical repertoire.
 
Question: What was the challenge of switching to classical music? What did you have to learn, or unlearn?
 
Answer: I think you need to unlearn things in golf, but not really in music. I didn’t have to unlearn anything, but I had to learn a hell of a lot.
 
I had to reconfigure my embouchure (mouth position) to make it more stable. The control that you have to have to play with orchestras is very different than when you’re playing with drum sets, because with drums, there’s two volumes, basically, loud and louder. The stamina has to improve to play pieces for 15 and 20 minutes, because there’s no piano player coming to spell you when you get tired.
 
And the rest of it is just the little things you learn by going onstage and making a ton of mistakes. There’s no substitute for that. There’s no substitute for being on a stage and being overwhelmed and fighting your way through it.
 
Q: What composers or pieces drew you toward the classical repertoire?
 
A: I bought my first opera when I was 25, touring with Sting, actually, when there used to be Tower Records everywhere. I laughed, because it was “Turandot” with Pavarotti and Mirella Freni singing, and it was on sale for 30 (British) pounds. And I was like, “How the hell is that a sale? That’s like 55 bucks.” So I bought that, and it was just like a revelation.
 
In popular music, you have a basic track and then you have a singer. But suddenly I’m listening to this orchestral score that’s so rich, and it’s not just one singer, it’s multiple singers singing at the same time, and it’s all contrapuntal and it’s complex, and it all works. I didn’t even know how to comprehend it.
 
So I became a Puccini fanatic. I bought a couple of things by Verdi, but then I stumbled into a guy who said, “You got to listen to German opera. You’ll never want to hear the Italian stuff again.” Which I highly doubted. But I bought (Richard Strauss’) “Salome” and I’ve never turned back.

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Submitted by Courtney on October 17th, 2014 — 01:21pm