Saxophonist Branford Marsalis on Classical Music, the NEA Awards and Durham

Publication: WNYC Culture Desk
Author: Terrance McKnight, WQXR Host
Date: October 1, 2010

Renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis will reunite with trumpeter Terence Blanchard for a special performance at the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on Friday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m.

“It’s going to be modern jazz at a very high level,” says jazz critic Nate Chinen, who writes for The New York Times. “Both these bands are very assertive rhythmically and advanced harmonically. Plus, there’s a lot of driving force and energy.”

Marsalis and Blanchard don’t perform often in New York, adds Chinen, and when they do it’s usually in a club. Seeing them in a concert like this is a treat.

The pair grew up together in New Orleans and got their start in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1980s. Marsalis started his own ensemble soon after that and has since won three Grammy awards. In recent years, he has moved into the classical music arena, playing as a soloist with the Philharmonia Brasileira and the New York Philharmonic this past summer.

“He’s always had one foot in pop, one foot in classical and then of course jazz is his core,” says Chinen. “He spans several worlds in that way.”

WQXR music host Terrance McKnight got to check in with Marsalis before his Jazz at Lincoln Center show with Blanchard about the different personas Marsalis has developed for different genres, about why his family isn’t taking their 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award too seriously, and why he chose to live in Durham, North Carolina over New York City.

Click here to listen to the interview!