Publication: The Morning Call
Author: Steve Siegal
Date: October 8, 2016
When Branford Marsalis performed Villa Lobos’ Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra for his first time back in 2008, you’d think it would have been a cakewalk for the multiple Grammy-winning, Tony-nominated, NEA Jazz Master saxophonist.
After all, Marsalis had worked with a roster of who’s who in the music world — he toured with Herbie Hancock, recorded with Miles Davis and performed with Sting, Phil Collins, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and a host of other icons.
But classical music proved a formidable nut to crack.
“Nine years ago I felt like I was treading in the Pacific Ocean after the boat had sunk and the water was just above my nose,” says Marsalis, 56, speaking from his home in Durham, N.C. “When you’re a defensive player not trying to make mistakes, it means you’re not making music. It took a long time for my brain to start to slow down — only then can you make musical decisions not based on survival.”