Branford Marsalis shows classical side

Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Author: Janelle Gelfand
Date: November 25, 2012

Branford Marsalis may be best known as the former music director and bandleader for NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in the 1990s. But his artistry runs much deeper.

He’s a member of a distinguished New Orleans jazz dynasty that began with his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. Branford, a saxophonist and the oldest of his siblings – who include trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason – established his reputation while still a student at the Berklee College of Music, working with jazz luminaries Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry.

Since then, he’s appeared with a who’s-who of jazz giants. He has also partnered with musicians as diverse as Sting, the Grateful Dead, and the hip-hop group Public Enemy. The Grammy Award-winner founded his own record label a decade ago, and records with his own Branford Marsalis Quartet.

The other side of this artist is that he is as comfortable discussing Shostakovich as he is Miles Davis.

Marsalis made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2010, the same year that his score for the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences” earned a Tony Award nomination for “Best Original Score Written for the Theater.” He has appeared as a soloist with orchestras around the world in music by composers such as Copland, Debussy and Darius Milhaud.

This year, Marsalis is a creative director for the Ascent Series for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Read more »

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Publication: Pasatiempo
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.”

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 21st, 2012 — 11:07am

Bob French 1938 - 2012

Iconic New Orleans drummer and Marsalis Music Honors Series musician Bob French passed away on Monday, November 12. Some words from Branford Marsalis about Mr. French:

 “Bob was an amazing musician, with very strong opinions. When it comes to music, he was always more right than he was wrong; and because I had the mentality that focused on the message, regardless of the delivery, I am a better musician because of him. I will miss the man, and the musician greatly.”

Submitted by Courtney on November 14th, 2012 — 11:01am

Bob French, longtime Original Tuxedo Jazz Band leader and WWOZ deejay, has died

Publication: The Times-Picayune
Author: Keith Spera
Date: November 12, 2012

Robert “Bob” French Sr., the longtime leader and drummer of the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band and an outspoken, at times controversial, WWOZ-FM deejay, died on Monday, Nov. 12, after a long illness. He was 74.

Mr. French last performed with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in the summer of 2011. Afflicted with dementia and suffering from diabetes-related complications, he then moved into an assisted-living facility.
Mr. French grew up immersed in the traditional sounds of New Orleans. His father, banjo player Albert “Papa” French, took over the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in the 1950s after the death of Oscar “Papa” Celestin, who founded the group in 1910.

As a young man, Mr. French rejected his father’s music in favor of rhythm and blues. His first gig in 1954 included Art and Charles Neville and piano wizard James Booker. One day, Papa French recruited his son to fill in for the Original Tuxedo’s ailing drummer. Bob French was so mortified by his sloppy performance that he committed himself to a proper study of traditional New Orleans jazz.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 13th, 2012 — 08:12am

Branford Marsalis embraces his live shows

Publication: Des Moines Register
Author: Joe Lawler
Date: November 11, 2012 

“It was great to see your concert.” Branford Marsalis hears that kind of compliment regularly, and as a musician, it used to perplex him a bit — that people were there to see him, not to hear him.

But now he understands that people listen to records but want to see a performer live on stage, and he wishes more jazz musicians would take that to heart.

“People hear with their eyes,” Marsalis said during a phone interview. “You watch a lot of jazz musicians play now, and they don’t look like they’re into it. Someone will finish a solo and stare at their nails while another guy is soloing. I’m not talking about a dance show, but just sitting around doesn’t really suit what we’re trying to do.”

Marsalis said his quartet doesn’t plan out what it is going to do on stage. When pianist Joey Calderazzo stands up while performing, it’s because he’s feeling it in a song. When drummer Justin Fauklner gets his arms and legs moving like crazy, it’s to make sure the music is moving at the proper beat. But it’s a lot more entertaining to watch than four men calmly playing their instruments. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 12th, 2012 — 12:50pm