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Branford Marsalis @ North Central College
Publication: Chicago Reader
Author: Peter Margasak
Date: February 24, 2013
For the past five years or so saxophonist Branford Marsalis has been calling out what he sees as the jazz world’s problem with insularity—for some players, he says, technical mastery and precision trump emotional expression and the urge to communicate or entertain. The tongue-in-cheek title of his latest album, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music), certainly reads as a salvo against eggheadedness—there are indeed four badass players on this record, and they’re killing it. Pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have played with Marsalis since 1997, and the group’s explosive young drummer, Justin Faulkner, took the baton from Jeff “Tain” Watts in 2009 without a stumble. They’re plugged into one another, and make the music sound almost effortless while operating at the highest technical level. Everyone but Faulkner contributed compositions, but he exerts so much personality with his playing—a quicksilver swing, a funky sort of lurching drive—that he may as well have coauthored every track. And Revis’s muscular style, which provides a durable and mobile armature for Calderazzo and Marsalis, radiates just as much character. The melodies of the lovely ballads, usually voiced on soprano saxophone, often seem to be searching for some kind of elusive truth, but I prefer the thunderous up-tempo material—the band tackles Monk’s “Teo” with neck-snapping ferocity and rides the corkscrewing episodic shifts in “Endymion.” The graceful, buoyant Marsalis original “Treat It Gentle,” which beautifully evokes Sidney Bechet, closes the album with a breezy charm that belies the intensity of what comes before.
When: Fri., March 1, 8 p.m.
North Central College