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Publication: The Grand Rapids Press
Author: Jeff Kaczmarczyk
Nearly anything can happen on a bandstand and, eventually, everything does.
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis had just remarked that rehearsals are overrated for musicians in small combos.
Then, after pianist Joey Calderazzo started “The Last Goodbye” on Thursday evening in the Van Singel Fine Arts Center, Marsalis broke out laughing and stopped the tune after a few bars.
Calderazzo wrote the ballad in three-quarter time, and that’s the meter he began playing. But the Branford Marsalis Quartet had recorded it in four, Marsalis explained.
That mattered because drummer Don Edwardswas with the group for the first time, having only heard the recording.
So goes live jazz.
Three years ago, Branford Marsalis was St. Cecilia Music Center’s Great Artist. His quartet was back Thursday to play for an audience that filled three-quarters of the 800-seat Van Singel auditorium.
Uptempo tunes and a surprising number of slow ballads were featured, including three tunes from “Metamorphosen,” released last month.
Marsalis, Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and regular drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts have been together for more than a decade, and all contribute original material.
Edwards behind the drum kit was a new factor, but he was steady Eddie for most of the night, just a little too busy on the ballad, “The Blossom of Parting.”
Revis offered an extended and savage solo. Calderazzo regularly played comic relief alongside Marsalis as the straight man, and Calderazzo played “In the Crease” with rhythmic, tactile fervor.
Watts, with a new album of his own, was there in spirit. The quartet opened with his bopping “Return of the Jitney Man.”
A swinging version of “Monk’s Dream” featured Marsalis playing clipped, pithy phrases.
After a steady diet of contemporary tunes, the encore was Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.”
Trumpeter Antoine Drye, from New Orleans by way of New York; and tenor saxophonist Diego Rivera, a former student of Marsalis at Michigan State University, joined the act for the tune.
Marsalis let his hair down a bit, so to speak, whipping out more than a few jazz cliches.
Because anything can happen on the bandstand.