Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)
Author: Josef Woodard
Date: November 29, 2012
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes sports a fitting package and moniker. Each member of the Branford Marsalis Quartet — tenor/soprano saxophonist Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner — is featured on a single panel of the insert, while the others appear in blurred focus behind him. And the players more than live up to the designation of mother****ers — a term of highest praise in this context.
Marsalis is a wise and humble leader, who willingly shares the spotlight. The saxophonist supplies two original compositions. “Whiplash” boasts a post-boppish intensity befitting its title, and the organically fluid “Endymion” suggests vintage Keith Jarrett group with Dewey Redman. But only a fool would tether composers of the caliber of Calderazzo and Revis,
The pianist’s weirdly beguiling “The Mighty Sword” proceeds with a savory, repetitive melody, while the band navigates its deceptively complex metric structure. And Calderazzo’s “As Summer Into Autumn Slips” is as lovely as its title. Revis displays his mighty pen with the Monkish “Brews” and the lulling, Shorteresque ballad “Maestra.”
A young and sensitive dynamo, Faulkner is the newcomer among longtime associates. He more than ably fills the vacancy left by drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, at least as a star-quality drummer if not yet as a composer.
The band also essay the quirky-cool Monk tune “Teo,” acknowledging the generous doses of Monk in Marsalis’ music. And they conclude the program with the standard “My Ideal,” on which the saxophonist takes a visceral, rather than lazily balladic, approach.
Yes, Marsalis and company are bad “MFs.” All the elements fall into place on the quartet’s strongest studio album to date.