Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin’ Tunes

Publication: The Abso!ute Sound
Author: Bill Milkowski
Date: October 1, 2012

This wryly-titled offering is the first to feature drummer Justin Faulkner, who replaced Jeff “Tain” Watts in the BMQ lineup in 2009 at age 18. This 180-gram double LP (also released on CD) is an immaculate-sounding collection that puts a premium on melody, though not at the expense of virtuosic soloing. Pianist Joey Calderazzo, a BMQ member since 1998, has matured into a first-rate composer and stellar improviser who relies less on his considerable chops than he did when he broke in with Michael Brecker’s group in the early 90s. His riff-oriented “The Mighty Sword” is as memorable as anything he’s ever written while his ethereal “As Summer Into Autumn Slips” beautifully showcases Marsalis’ unparalleled soprano playing. Marsalis’ “Whiplash” is a kinetic romp that unleashes Faulkner on the kit while his freeblowing “Endymion” recalls the potent chemistry of the Keith Jarrett Quartet with Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, and Charlie Haden. There’s a clever second line rendition of Monk’s “Teo” and Marsalis delivers the standard “My Ideal” with relaxed tenor tones and old-school charm. The leader’s jaunty closer, “Treat It Gentle,” is an ode to soprano sax legend Sidney Bechet.