Branford Marsalis News

'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 — 12:21pm

'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 — 02:15pm

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 — 02:21pm

Branford Marsalis - In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral (2014)

Publication: Something Else!
Author: Nick Deriso
Date: October 7, 2014

Never one to shy away from a big moment, Branford Marsalis brought his saxophones — and nothing else — to one of jazz’s most iconic settings for what would become his first-ever unaccompanied performance and album.
 
The results, recorded in 2012 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and due October 21, 2014 via Marsalis Music-Okeh Records, doesn’t supercede Duke Ellington’s initial 1960s-era Sacred Concert — held there, as well — so much as endeavor to expand the vocabulary of that stirring triumph.
 
Ellington, back then, was focused on blending jazz, black gospel and classical into a kind of large-scale, yet intimate tapestry of emotion. Marsalis, as evidenced by his single-instrument vehicle, is crafting more in miniature on In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral — but at the same time, pushing in his own way to blur the lines between post-bop jazz and contemporary classical. In place of the sacred, he delves into modernity of free-form improv. As such, this won’t translate for fans who’ve come to his music via tandem collaborations in pop music.
 
In fact, In My Solitude works diligently away from those expectations, as Marsalis tracks deeper into melody, and then into far more individualistic asides, while moving determinedly away from the bawdy shower of notes associated with rock and R&B. His work here, then, is apt to recall Sonny Rollins or Sam Newsome more than, say, Sting.
 
Submitted by Courtney on October 8th, 2014 — 10:07am

Going for Baroque: Branford Marsalis, chamber group in Seattle on Oct. 4

Publication: The Seattle Times
Author: Tom Keogh
Date: October 3, 2014

A concert of Baroque saxophone: What can that possibly sound like?
 
A Seattle audience is about to find out.
 
So is the saxophonist.
 
“We have not yet started rehearsals, so I can’t presume what we will sound like,” says Branford Marsalis, the Grammy Award-winning musician and composer.
 
The renowned and ubiquitous saxophone player, who has performed with everyone from Miles Davis to Public Enemy to the New York Philharmonic, is kicking off a 20-city tour with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia at Seattle’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts on Saturday (Oct. 4).
 
In an email interview days before Marsalis and the 50-year-old ensemble began rehearsing, the leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet looked ahead to a Meany program of early music from across Europe. The bill includes works by J.S. Bach, Henry Purcell, Tomaso Albinoni, Louis-Antoine Dornel and others.
 
“All of the pieces are outside my comfort zone, and I relish the challenge,” Marsalis says. “That said, I’m really digging the French Baroque stuff.”

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Submitted by Courtney on October 7th, 2014 — 10:52am