Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)
Author: Paul Weideman
Date: October 12, 2012
This album opens with pianist Joey Calderazzo’s “The Mighty Sword.” He and soprano saxophonist Branford Marsalis trade leads over a dynamite rumbling-strings, symbal-crashing foundation by bassist Eric Revis and new drummer Justin Faulkner - he joined three years ago, while Revis and Calderazzo go back with Marsalis to 1997’s Music Evolution. The leader said they could have done the Four MFs program in one day, as things used to be done at Blue Note Records, but those were often simple blues laid down like jam sessions. “The tunes on this record are very difficult, but we are tight enough to make them sound easy, ” Marsalis says on his website. “The difference is that we are a working band.”
The Review original “Maestra” is beautiful, soft and easy, Marsalis’ soprano now romantic, almost harmonica-like; Calderazzo alternates cascading arpeggios, block chords, and right-hand explorations. On Thelonious Monk’s “Teo,” Faulkner really shines, and the pianist’s inventions are swingingly engaging. “As Summer Into Autumn Slips,” a ballad by Calderazzo, is loose and quiet, even spiritual, but it also builds to accomodate a sinewy and almost wild soprano solo. The energy shifts dramatically for “Endymion,” a demonstrative piece by Marsalis (here on tenor) that has a disjointed, jam-session quality energized by the propulsive Faulkner. Straightahead bliss, start to finish.