Branford Marsalis - Romare Bearden Revealed

Romare Bearden Revealed
September 2003
  1. I'm Slappin' Seventh Avenue
  2. Jungle Blues
  3. Seabreeze
  4. J Mood
  5. B's Paris Blues
  6. Autumn Lamp
  7. Steppin' On the Blues
  8. Laughin' & Talkin' (with Higg)
  9. Carolina Shout
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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. Today, we are pleased to have the opportunity to work with museums who continue to highlight this very important artist by offering new and different perspectives on his work, increasing his profile further.  Please visit our list of “Current Bearden Exhibitions” for details.

The affinity that Romare Bearden (1911-1988), one of the most vibrant and visionary American painters of the 20th century, felt for jazz music has been well documented. A native of North Carolina whose family relocated to Harlem when he was three years old, Bearden was a true child of the Harlem Renaissance whose circle of friends included many of the community’s leading musicians and authors as well as painters. Frequent visits to relatives who remained in the South also sustained Bearden’s fascination with the rural as well as the urban strains in African-American culture. By the 1940s, jazz musicians and jazz scenes had begun to appear in his work; and as time passed he began to employ titles of favorite jazz performances for his paintings and collages. In his later years, Bearden created specific works for albums by Charlie Parker, Donald Byrd and Wynton Marsalis; and, since his death, musicians such as Sonny Fortune and Robin Eubanks have also employed images created by Bearden for their recording projects.
Branford Marsalis is among the many jazz artists who have been keenly aware of Bearden’s creations. The charismatic saxophonist met Bearden in the ‘80s and owned two of Bearden’s works. Having recently moved to North Carolina with his family, Branford had also gained new insight into the sources of Bearden’s vision. So when the Romare Bearden Foundation suggested that Branford’s label develop an album to complement the major Bearden retrospective that opens at the National Gallery of Art in September, he embraced the idea wholeheartedly.

What has emerged is a meditation on Bearden’s vision in which Branford, on soprano and tenor saxophones, his quartet (featuring Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums) and some illustrious guests present their own aural impressions of Bearden’s powerful visual imagery.

Chairman, Tallal ELBoushi, stated, “The Board of Directors of the Romare Bearden Foundation feel enriched by our association with the immensely talented Branford Marsalis. This project brings together two typically unconnected art forms, visual art and music. Through this creative partnership on the Romare Bearden Revealed CD project, we saw a natural alignment with the Foundation’s mission to preserve and perpetuate Bearden’s legacy. We recognized the opportunity it offered to once again publicly acknowledge Bearden’s truly exceptional and multidimensional talents, among them as a visual artist, writer of scholarly and children’s books and a songwriter/lyricist. It is particularly fitting that this unique project has come to fruition during this time when Bearden is being celebrated and honored with a major retrospective by the National Gallery of Art - the first African-American artist to be so honored.”

After immersing himself in Bearden’s art, Branford created a program that moves among jazz classics referenced in and suggested by Bearden’s art, new compositions created expressly for this recording, and a song in which Bearden himself played a creative role. From the jazz works that share titles with Bearden paintings, Branford chose “Slappin’ Seventh Avenue with the Sole of My Shoe,” a 1938 tour de force by the Duke Ellington orchestra rearranged for quartet plus rhythm guitar; “J Mood,” his brother Wynton’s 1986 blues recreated here in a performance where the trumpeter joins Branford’s quartet (drummer Watts was also heard on the original recording); and “Carolina Shout,” James P. Johnson’s classic stride-piano piece presented as a charging duet between Branford’s soprano sax and the piano of Harry Connick, Jr. The feelings generated by Bearden’s art recalled two other traditional compositions – Jelly Roll Morton’s “Jungle Blues,” heard in a rousing live performance recorded at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center by the Marsalis Family, and “Steppin’ on the Blues,” in which Branford’s quartet interprets the soulful 1924 recording in which trumpeter Tommy Ladnier was featured with pianist Lovie Austin’s Blue Serenaders) – as well as “Laughin’ and Talkin’ (with Higg),” a recent Watts homage to the late Billy Higgins that finds Branford and Wynton engaging in astonishing instrumental dialogue.

Branford also wrote “B’s Paris Blues,” a nod to both Bearden and saxophone patriarch Sidney Bechet, and asked Marsalis Music recording artist Doug Wamble to bring the sound of the rural blues into the mix with his solo piece “Autumn Lamp.” Both of these new compositions allude to Bearden paintings that will be included in the exhibition. Finally, “Seabreeze,” a piece from the 1950s to which Bearden contributed lyrics, was revived at a sensuous bolero tempo.

Romare Bearden Revealed is a recording that reflects Branford’s view of Bearden as “adventurous. His work reflects a world of tradition, and also the will to break tradition.” Annotator Robert O’Meally adds that the disc “challenges hearers to see the music, viewers to hear the paintings,” and likens the interchange between Bearden’s creations and these musicians as “calling and responding – or, as Bearden liked to put it, calling and recalling.”

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

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 »

Braggtown
Branford Marsalis
2006

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). 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 »