Branford Marsalis News

Marsalis Music Interviews Art Director Steven Jurgensmeyer

Steven Jurgensmeyer began his career as the Art Director at the trailblazing record label Rykodisc, working closely with Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bob Mould, Robert Cray and Morphine, among others. He joined Rounder Records as Creative Director, working with musicians such as Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, Harry Connick Jr, and Madeleine Peyroux. He is now the principal in his own studio and has worked with Carly Simon, Dan Zanes, Richard Lewis, the legendary Jamaican label Studio One and, of course, Branford Marsalis. His work can be seen at www.stevenjurgensmeyer.com.

Marsalis Music: You were the Art Director for Branford’s two latest recording projects, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy and Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. Could you please explain your concept for each project?
 
Steven Jurgensmeyer: It was a great pleasure working directly with Branford on Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. He sent me a CD of the music and asked me to “design what I heard.” Upon hearing the music, two things struck me pretty immediately; one was the openness of the music, and the space “between” the notes. The second was the obvious familiarity and intimacy between Branford and Joey. So… you had two really contrasting ideas at play here, and I really wanted to create something beautiful, that would stand the test of time and sit comfortably amongst the classic album covers from Blue Note and Prestige. I knew a sense of scale was going to be a key to success; luckily, we were able to utilize this wonderful, towering wall in the Museum of Fine Arts’ new “Art of the Americas” wing. I loved the stone and the natural light; it really filled the “spacious” role, but also became another player in the composition. The “other thing” I needed to capture was the familiarity Branford and Joey share as musicians. They brought that naturally with their personalities and relationship. There was a lot of clowning around (as the outtakes attest!), but their body language in the final shot provided exactly what was needed. Photographer Stephen Sheffield caught that moment; I knew immediately that this shot was the cover. The typography is a nod to the simplicity and grace of that classic era of jazz sleeves and to the album’s title. This cover is my favorite piece in my career to date.

With Four MFs, we wanted to illustrate the importance of each band member and their musical personality and contributions in this particular quartet, as they had really jelled into a formidable unit. I knew I wanted “motion” to serve as the metaphor for the music and, in turn, highlight each musician in focus, while the others “played” around him or her. A friend recommended photographer Eric Ryan Anderson, who uses a lot of motion techniques; he was game and the shoot was on. As with any shoot, no matter how tightly scripted, you always have to improvise and we worked the quartet hard to get those shots! It was an incredibly difficult shoot; a lot of fun, to be sure, but a long day and hard work.

Marsalis Music: What was the biggest challenge during the Four MFs shoot?
 
SJ: The biggest challenge of theFour MFs shoot was keeping the guys moving and staying out of the subject’s way so that he remained the focus. It’s not easy to plan and direct spontaneity! Read more »

Marsalis Wows in First of Candler Series

Publication: Emory Wheel
Author: Monica Yang
Date: September 24, 2012

On Friday evening at 8 p.m., I found myself sitting amongst a packed audience at Emory’s very own Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, eagerly waiting “An Evening with Branford Marsalis” to begin, the kick-off show for the 2012-2013 Flora Glenn Candler Concert Series.

The evening marked the first of eight shows this year. The Candler Concert Series are incredible opportunities to see world-famous performers showcase their talents right on our campus.

Branford Marsalis, the lead saxophonist, is not only a well-known musician, but he is also a Tony Award-nominated composer and a three-time Grammy Award winner. The famous jazz quartet included Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Joey Calderazzo on the piano, Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on the drums.

The quartet tuned their instruments, and Marsalis stepped up to the microphone to welcome the crowd. He threw out a few well-received jokes, setting a light-hearted mood in the theater. Afterwards, the jazz quartet began their performance with a riveting piece called “The Mighty Sword,” written by Marsalis.

Any lingering sereneness departed from the audience, as the unpredictable and wild nature that is jazz filled the room. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 28th, 2012 — 10:10am

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Publication: Relix
Author: Jeff Tamarkin
Date: October/November issue

When preparing for their new album, the Branford Marsalis Quartet—with recently recruited drummer Justin Faulkner making his recorded debut with the band (the others are bassist Eric Revis and pianist Joey Calderazzo)—decided to focus not so much on the in-your-face virtuosity that’s always been incontestable, but on song structures. Some might argue that, for all of its dexterity, this band has always known its way around a lyrical melody, but rarely did one come away from a Branford Marsalis set humming. That’s doable here: Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on September 25th, 2012 — 11:32am

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

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis to perform at Schuster

Publication: Dayton Daily News
Author: Adam Alonzo
Date: September 20, 2012

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is unconcerned that jazz musicians lack the popularity of mainstream artists.

“I chose to play this music, and I accept all the things that come with that, good, bad and indifferent,” he has said.

For those who envy the success of other musicians, Marsalis offers this advice: “Just shut up and play.”

Marsalis’ career is hardly lacking in success, however. He’s collected three Grammy awards, was nominated for a Tony, and last year was named a Jazz Masters fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, as were his father and three younger brothers.

Marsalis will appear at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton on Sunday as part of a tour promoting a new release by his quartet. The record features pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner.

Marsalis offered high praise for the members of his band.

“When you hire people who you feel are talented, 95 percent of the time, they’re gonna play the right thing,” he said. “They know, and they’ve listened to enough music to know what’s gonna make the song work, and you just wait a second, and they’ll hook it up. They always do.”

Submitted by Courtney on September 20th, 2012 — 11:22am