Branford Marsalis Quartet brings intensity to University of Maryland

Publication: Washington Examiner
Author: Emily Cary
Date: February 14, 2013

Saxophonist/composer Branford Marsalis has been at the forefront of American jazz since his first foray out of his native New Orleans where the Marsalis family’s musical heritage stirs civic pride. Following membership in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the “Tonight Show” band, he has composed Broadway scores and film soundtracks, taught, established his record label and launched the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

Direct from “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, the quartet set forth on a tour destined for Oman and Europe with a stop Friday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center for an evening of creative jazz. Prior to the concert, Marsalis and art professor David C. Driskell will discuss “Convergence: The Intersection of Visual and Performance Art in Jazz,” an exhibition opening concurrently in the David C. Driskell Center. Marsalis is committed to preserving jazz history and the works of its artists.

“My fondest memories of growing up in New Orleans are all great,” he said. “I remember playing in the symphonic orchestra and the director yelling at me for not practicing. I was lazy. Then, I left it for the Fairview Baptist Church to play in the marching band led by Danny Barker who had played guitar with Cab Calloway and Benny Carter. He was a wonderful teacher.”

The elite BMQ is comprised of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and youthful drummer Justin Faulkner, who joined the ensemble four years ago. Like their leader, Calderazzo and Revis are exceptional composers. The eight-track album boasts six original songs, two covers and a bonus track, “Treat It Gentle” which Marsalis composed after listening to recordings by the late saxophonist Sidney Bechet.

“I wrote it in my head last summer, and when the guys were looking for a final song, I told them I had one,” he said. “We always put everything on paper, so I sat about 20 minutes writing it out for them. They liked it and said to include it. As it turned out, we already had enough for the album, so it became the bonus track.”