Branford Marsalis - Braggtown

Braggtown
September 2006
  1. Jack Baker
  2. Hope
  3. Fate
  4. Blakzilla
  5. O Solitude
  6. Sir Roderick, The Aloof
  7. Black Elk Speaks
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Over the course of its life - and most particularly on its previous Marsalis Music scs - the Branford Marsalis Quartet has revealed an ability to express every kind of emotion, including an informed sense of history (on the label-launching Footsteps of Our Fathers in 2002 and the 2004 DVD Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ Live in Amsterdam), a sensitivity to other artistic disciplines (Romare Bearden Revealed from 2003) and a profound sense of intimacy that stretched the concept of a “ballads album” (2004’s Eternal). The Quartet’s new Braggtown, which Marsalis Music will release on September 12, addresses all of these areas and more. Drawing upon a world of inspirations, including an 17th Century English composer, an Indian Warrior and a Japanese horror film, Braggtown is the Marsalis band’s most comprehensive and compelling recording to date.

“The band’s just getting better,” confirms leader, saxophonist and label head Branford Marsalis. “It comes from the growth of each individual, which you can hear. I know that my tone is more focused on both tenor and soprano saxophones, and my technique is vastly improved. And you can hear the same kind of development in [pianist] Joey [Calderazzo], [bassist Eric] Revis and [drummer Jeff] `Tain’ [Watts].”

“What results is that, when we play together, we are a real group with our own sound. Even if you heard the band only three or four years ago, we sound different – tighter, more explosive. This is the natural way that a band grows when everyone is working at getting better.”

To spotlight this growth, Marsalis selected the strongest new songs from the band’s current repertoire, with an emphasis on burnouts. The Quartet’s desire “to get back to that kind of high-energy music we’ve been doing when we perform” is realized in three powerful tracks featuring the leader’s tenor. The opening “Jack Baker,” with its slashing three-bar melodic form, came out of a conversation between composer Marsalis and Calderazzo. “We were talking about how musicians try to write tunes with ‘a Coltrane sound,’ and my point was that too many simply use scales without the blues licks that Coltrane would have used. It’s easy to just write a scale, but that won’t create a group experience, which is the purpose of writing for a band. So I started writing and ‘Jack Baker’ just came out.”

Other examples of the Quartet in burnout mode are “Blakzilla,” fashioned by Watts and inspired by Akira Ifukube’s music from the classic 1953 Japanese horror film Godzilla, and Revis’ tribute to the legendary chief who fell victim to Westward expansion, “Black Elk Speaks.”

To round out the group portrait, Braggtown also finds the group in moods other than fast and furious, including two originals that feature Marsalis on soprano sax, Calderazzo’s beautiful “Hope” and Marsalis’ “Fate.” “I’d been listening to Wagner, and started singing along with one of his leitmotivs, which led to ‘Fate,’” Marsalis explains. “Later, I learned that the particular motif was always referred to as the ‘fate’ motif.” Marsalis’ listening also led him to “O, Solitude,” an opus by the 17th Century English composer Henry Purcell that he felt would also be an ideal vehicle for his tenor sax and the band. Completing the album is another new Marsalis composition, “Sir Roderick, the Aloof,” originally conceived as a soprano/piano duo before he realized that the iconoclastic theme could also accommodate the power of the full quartet.

As with every disc in the Marsalis Music catalogue, Braggtown is state-of-the-art in terms of both music and sound. “We recorded at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, North Carolina, which is where we did Occasion with Harry Connick, Jr. last year,” Marsalis notes. “It is a marvelous room and you can hear the room, which enhances the sound. [Engineer] Rob [Hunter] and I decided to lean more on the room sound and less on reverb, so that the resulting album sounds like less of a production. Then we mixed everything to the drums, which made it all work.”

Marsalis realizes that music so uncompromisingly honest in all of its moods goes against the high-concept, keep-it-simple trend in current jazz recording, but he is unconcerned. “People who listen to the music on its own terms, who are eager listeners, will hear us,” he insists. “This album is for people who truly like music, rather than simply liking to be entertained by music. Too many people use music like they use television, as an entertainment source rather than as an educational tool. Those kinds of people will always have trouble with what we’re doing, because we’re into growth instead of just being into reaffirmation. I’ve had my forays into pop culture, but I left to do this, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.”

This time out, the consequences should find Braggtown acclaimed as one of the era’s most towering musical statements, from one of the era’s most creative ensembles.

Other Releases by Branford Marsalis

Four MFs Playin' Tunes
Branford Marsalis
2012

Branford Marsalis           saxophones
Joey Calderazzo             piano
Eric Revis                       bass
Justin Faulkner              drums
  

…the album is a knockout: hard nosed and hyperacute, tradition minded but modern, defined by the high-wire grace of his working band.” -Nate Chinen, New York Times
Read more »

Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
Branford Marsalis
2011

Branford Marsalis - Saxophones
Joey Calderazzo - Piano

Few contemporary pairings of saxophonist and pianist have been as inspired and productive as that of Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo.  Since replacing the late Kenny Kirkland in Marsalis’ quartet in 1998, Calderazzo has blended seamlessly into the uncompromising creative atmosphere of the ensemble and revealed new facets of his own conception, while Marsalis in turn has been inspired by the pianist’s challenging instrumental support and growing strength as a composer.  The relationship grows ever deeper, as documented on the new Marsalis Music CD Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. Read more »

Metamorphosen
Branford Marsalis
2009

Branford Marsalis - Saxophones
Joey Calderazzo - Piano
Eric Revis - Bass
Jeff “Tain” Watts - Drums

Time flies when you are making great music, as Branford Marsalis will be the first to attest. “I had no idea that two years had passed since we made our last album,” says the celebrated saxophonist, composer, producer and leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. The realization prompted a simple charge to Quartet members Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain”Watts. Read more »

Harry and Branford: A Duo Occasion
Branford Marsalis
2005

Pianist Harry Connick, Jr. and saxophonist Branford Marsalis are old friends who regularly
surprise the music world with their eclectic tastes and ability to deliver in a variety of idioms.
When the pair got together to record Occasion from Marsalis Music’s Connick on Piano
series, the setting may have been unexpected, but the results were typically challenging and
satisfying. After the positive response that Occasion received upon its spring 2005 release,
further encounters by the pair were inevitable. One particularly memorable set, from the Read more »

A Love Supreme Live In Amsterdam
Branford Marsalis
2004

For Marsalis Music’s second DVD release, label founder Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been captured in a complete performance of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece A Love Supreme. This legendary suite, which tenor saxophonist Marsalis included on his label’s premier release, Footsteps of Our Fathers, was performed at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis during a European tour in March 2003. Read more »

Eternal
Branford Marsalis
2004

Many musicians create collections of ballads to serve as background listening in one-dimensional moods. Branford Marsalis is an uncommon musician, however and Eternal is no ordinary ballad album. The new CD, Branford’s third on his Marsalis Music label, will be released on September 14. Read more »

Romare Bearden Revealed
Branford Marsalis
2003

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis  saxophones
Joey Calderazzo  piano
Eric Revis  bass
Jeff “Tain” Watts  drums

Special Guests
Harry Connick, Jrpiano
 Delfeayo Marsalis  trombone
Ellis Marsalis  piano
Jason Marsalis  drums
 Wynton Marsalis  trumpet
Reginald Veal  bass
Doug Wamble  guitar

Jazz musicians have frequently inspired and been inspired by visual artists; but the interchange has never been more direct and intense than on Romare Bearden Revealed. This disc, comprised entirely of newly recorded music, was produced by saxophonist Branford Marsalis in celebration of “The Art of Romare Bearden,” a major retrospective that opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 2003. Read more »