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Publication: Hampton Daily Press
Author: Sam McDonald
Date: February 15, 2013
In years past, sax man Branford Marsalis backed a rock star named Sting and added musical punch to Jay Leno’s late-night talk show.
These days, though, he’s working for himself. What’s he up to? He’s playing undiluted, unbridled jazz.
His new album, featuring the no-nonsense title of “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes,” features a hot, swinging quartet playing jazz in the classic fashion. In this case, though, that means fewer showboating solos and more group interplay.
“The tune is more important than any individual solo or any idea of genius or innovation, all these false choices that I hear in the jazz world,” Marsalis told National Public Radio last year. “All bands are bands of equals …The things that made jazz magical in the early years, musicians actually played together, not just at the same time. You’re finding fewer and fewer of those guys.”
The tunes on the album are mostly new, with the exception of Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and the 1930s ballad “My Ideal.”
Marsalis brings his band to The American Theatre Saturday, Feb. 16, where he will perform for a sold out house. With the exception of new drummer Justin Faulkner, the Marsalis quartet features players who have stuck by him for years. Musical relationships have deepened.
“This album shows that Marsalis’ quartet hasn’t skipped a beat with the change in the drummer’s chair,” wrote Charles J. Gans in an Associated Press review. “(They’re) effortlessly playing often complex original tunes that are thoroughly modern while referencing past jazz masters.”
The sax man said that his playing got even stronger after trading New York City for Durham, N.C., a few years ago.
“Lately, I’ve become a much better musician, by far,” he told The Fayetteville Observer. “I think George Foreman said it best: Boxing is just like jazz, the better it is, the less people like it.”