A dedicated, open mind allows Branford Marsalis to have the world of music at his fingertips

Publication: Columbia Daily Tribune
Author: Amy Wilder
Date: February 1, 2015

Branford Marsalis is a musical polyglot. He is fluent in every language and genre, from classical to jazz, R&B and hip-hop, and his saxophone gives voice to something beyond words, defiant of traditional boundaries.

He will perform at the Missouri Theatre Feb. 8 as part of the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series; the date is this year’s University of Missouri College of Arts and Science Signature Concert. Marsalis brings with him a trio of longtime collaborators to round out his quartet: pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and relative newcomer, percussionist Justin Faulkner.

In Marsalis’ most recent release, “In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral,” — recorded in 2012 and released last fall — the saxophonist’s haunting melodies fill the cavernous space of the San Francisco cathedral, dipping gracefully in and out of various genres with nods and homages, and the through line vacillates between jazz and classical styles.

Especially indicative of his tendency to scale musical boundaries is the track “Blues For One.” In it, he establishes an ambulatory shuffle blues rhythm and then adds a boogie-woogie melody on top of it. That he does that all with one instrument, playing into the echoes in the church, is incredible.

The transition to a solo performance was entirely natural for Marsalis; his catholic, fluid ability is something he attributes in part to his consumption of the work of other musicians; he draws analogies from another love — sports.

“If you follow football at all, if you listen to the interviews of the guys that are really good, they always talk about, ‘I gotta go study film.’ Recordings are ‘film,’ for me,” he said. “I’m always listening to recordings and studying recordings. I have listened to many, many hours of solo performers, particularly in classical music.

“I use recordings to help me prepare for environments,” he added. “I really don’t have a one-size-fits-all format. I play in quartet format because I like it — not because it’s the only way that I can conceive of playing. I have thousands of records with guys playing in other formats: big bands, duos, trios, chamber groups, classical groups. So when it was time to play solo, it was just a matter of finding material that works in that situation. It didn’t require a massive shift in the way that I think about music at all. To me, ultimately music is more about the power of melody than anything else, anyway.”

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Submitted by Bobby on February 2nd, 2015 — 10:46am