Strictly New Orleans, and all that jazz…
Publication: Louisiana Weekly
Author: Geraldine Wyckoff
Date: August 6, 2012
Joy is such an essential element of jazz. It is the dynamic that elevates the interaction between musicians – their obvious thrill of communicating – and the listeners being thankful for being in its presence. So when you have Four MFs Playin’ Tunes as on this disc from saxophonist’s Branford Marsalis Quartet, the music rules and the musicians deliver.
The album kicks off with warmth and playfulness on longtime Marsalis associate, pianist Joey Calderazzo’s composition, “The Mighty Sword.” It moves at a fast, be-boppin’ pace, with the pianist seemingly owning the tune. Marsalis jumps in with his horn offering a rather sweet tone while the band with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner, the newest member of the group making his first recording with Marsalis, provides superb support.
Thelonious Monk fans can dig the staggering rhythmic elements of Revis’ contribution, “Brews,” that are echoed in Monk’s classic, “Teo,” later in the disc. New Orleanians will, perhaps, be curious as to how Marsalis will interpret the locally-referenced tune, “Endymion.” Curiously, it has an almost classical feel at the beginning with Calderazzo displaying a certain refinement. Marsalis musically provides the cacophony of Carnival – its exuberance, its drive – on a solo that celebrates the holiday and life.
For some sheer blowing from Marsalis and to get a further taste of Faulkner’s fluid drums, the saxophonist offers his own “Whiplash.” It stands as another example of his excellent sense of space and the importance of emptiness. Calderazzo takes this one out followed by the earthy tones of Faulkner’s drums.
After the party is over and it’s time to mellow out, sanctuary can be found in a lovely, simple ballad that is “My Ideal.” Branford handles this standard straight-up reminding all of the richness and range of his tenor saxophone. Beauty is beauty.
From an album that began with the need to take a deep breath to keep up with the energy, dynamics and inventiveness of the material, Marsalis bows deeply to the legendary New Orleanian, Sidney Bechet on the bonus track, “Treat It Gentle.” Playing soprano saxophone, Bechet’s horn of choice, Marsalis beautifully recalls his hometown roots and the soprano’s prominent place in music and history that began with Bechet.
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes doesn’t have a dominant theme that often seems to prevail in many, present-day recordings. It stands, as the title indicates, on its own. Because of its inherent joy, the album moves quickly enabling the music to captivate listeners willing to join the spirit of the moment of creativity.