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Branford Marsalis’ first Hong Kong gig – it’s going to be a classic
Author: Robin Lynam
Date: April 16, 2016
Playing French and Russian classical music with a chamber music ensemble is probably not the way most of us would have expected saxophonist Branford Marsalis to make his Hong Kong debut.
A member of New Orleans’ first family of jazz – son to pianist Ellis and elder brother to trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jason, and trombonist Delfeayo – the 55-year-old is also best known as one of the finest jazz reed players of his generation, adept on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones.
He leads a highly successful jazz quartet, and also performs in a duet setting with notable pianists including Ellis Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo and Harry Connick Jnr. Over the last couple of years he has also undertaken a number of engagements performing entirely unaccompanied.
Seen by millions around the world in 1985 playing with Sting and Phil Collins at Live Aid, Marsalis is also a familiar face and sound to late night television audiences from his stint in the early 1990s as bandleader for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Still, he is no stranger to the classical music world. Marsalis made his debut in 2010 with the New York Philharmonic, playing Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone. This is one of the two pieces that he will perform with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong at City Hall on April 27.
The musician says that, and Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche suite, which he has recorded, were the orchestra’s choices for the programme.
“I tend to leave those decisions to the orchestras, because they know their markets,” he says over the phone from his home in Durham, North Carolina.
“All markets are different culturally, and they have a sense of what the audience will appreciate.
Rather than become a single-issue candidate and say ‘I’d love to play with you and this is the one piece I play’ I put myself in a hellhole by having to learn multiple pieces. But it has made me a better musician, even if it has cost me lot of sleepless nights.”