Branford Marsalis - Eternal

September 2004
  1. The Ruby and the Pearl
  2. Reika's Loss
  3. Gloomy Sunday
  4. The Lonely Swan
  5. Dinner for One Please, James
  6. Muldoon
  7. Eternal
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For Rafi Zabor’s full liner notes for Eternal, please follow this link.

Many musicians create collections of ballads to serve as background listening in one-dimensional moods. Branford Marsalis is an uncommon musician, however and Eternal is no ordinary ballad album. The new CD, Branford’s third on his Marsalis Music label, will be released on September 14.

As with most of his recording projects, Eternal is the product of much thought and sustained artistic growth. “Around the time I recorded Crazy People Music in 1990, I began to realize how hard it is to really play a ballad,” the saxophonist explains. “One of the old-guard jazz guys had come up to me and said, `Yeah, I heard you messing up the melody of “Lament,”’ a J.J. Johnson ballad that I had recorded a couple of years earlier. The comment made me realize how certain people’s jazz parameters had nothing to do with music. All that mattered to that guy was that I didn’t play the bridge correctly. It made me start to think about what was important in playing ballads. I decided it was not just stating the melody, because Miles didn’t always play the melody; it was playing emotionally.”

Marsalis admits that it took a few years for this lesson to sink in, but he is not one for quick fixes. “I’m a firm believer in process over product, and I think my ballad concept finally started to come together on stuff like `A Thousand Autumns’ [from his 1996 album The Dark Keys]. It was a shock when two women came up to me on separate occasions and said the song had made them cry, because I had rarely heard that said about jazz before. The comment made me realize that the quartet and I were achieving emotional development as musicians. Playing a ballad had gotten beyond the typical jazz approach. We were manipulating the songs, not just the chord changes. That’s what inspired a ballad album.”

In collaboration with band members Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain” Watts, Marsalis developed a program that is both unique and compelling. “I didn’t want to just play familiar songs or songs from a fake book,” he says. “I was more concerned with showcasing each musician’s personal perspective, and the music was inspired in a variety of ways. Tain said we had to do one for the old folks, something with a two-step feeling like his parents used to dance to, which is where `Dinner for One, Please, James’ came from. I had always loved Billie Holiday’s `Gloomy Sunday,’ but never thought of playing it until I heard a European pop singer named Heather Nova sing it on the soundtrack of a movie called Gloomy Sunday. That inspired me, plus Sonny Rollins’ approach to `You Don’t Know What Love Is’ on the Saxophone Colossus album, the way he walked through a ballad. And I knew `The Ruby and the Pearl’ from Wayne Shorter’s recording, but the song really registered with me when I heard Nat Cole sing it.” The remainder of the program is comprised of a new composition from each member of the quartet. “Once we decided to do an all-ballad record, everyone in the band wanted to bring in a song,” Marsalis reports. What resulted were three showcases for the his soprano saxophone – Watts’ “Reika’s Loss,” Calderazzo’s “The Lonely Swan” and Revis’ “Muldoon” – plus his own overpowering title track, featuring Marsalis on tenor and dedicated to his wife Nicole.

“`Eternal’ stems from Nicole hearing tunes that other guys in the band had brought in dedicated to their women. So she started in on me: `When are you going to write my tune?’ But for me, it’s not just naming any composition after someone; its letting the music suggest the person. Nicole is complex, which is what I like in people. She’s multi-dimensional, and when I wrote this particular piece, I thought it captured everything about her. I got a little animated in the studio when we recorded it, because it wasn’t happening at first; but once I calmed down, we played `Eternal’ better than we ever had. I actually got goose bumps while we were recording. Most of it is soft, but it’s simmering. And it’s long, but there’s no way that you can make it shorter.”

On the subject of unifying themes, Marsalis notes that “All of the songs reflect the idea that there is beauty in sadness. Even sad songs sound happy when some people interpret them, like the singers who make `Black Coffee’ sultry, and there are other musicians who only approach a song in a theoretical manner. I was aiming for what Billie Holiday could do, which was to get to the emotions of each song.” What has resulted is another triumph for one of the greatest saxophonists and quartets in contemporary music.

Other Releases by Branford Marsalis

Upward Spiral
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The Branford Marsalis Quartet with Special Guest Kurt Elling Soar on Upward Spiral.
First Meeting of Acclaimed Ensemble and Singer Yields a Program of Small Group Jazz with Voice for the 21st Century
It is no secret that the Branford Marsalis Quartet can be as freewheeling off the bandstand as in performance.
In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral
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Branford Marsalis continues to prove that there is no context too large or small to contain his gifts. A reigning master of the jazz quartet format, dedicated champion of the duo setting, in-demand soloist of classical ensembles both chamber and orchestral, and session-enhancing special guest on an array of rock, roots and pop performances over the course of his career, his ever-broadening creativity and instrumental command have created the profile of a multi-dimensional musician with few peers among contemporary performers. Read more »

Four MFs Playin' Tunes
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Branford Marsalis           saxophones
Joey Calderazzo             piano
Eric Revis                       bass
Justin Faulkner              drums

…the album is a knockout: hard nosed and hyperacute, tradition minded but modern, defined by the high-wire grace of his working band.” -Nate Chinen, New York Times

Legendary saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his tight-knit working band invite audiences into their world of musical cohesion with the release of Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. On this nimble and sparkling album, the band respects the emotional intent of each song and executes that intent with musicianship focused solely on serving the purpose of each tune. Read more »

Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
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Branford Marsalis - Saxophones
Joey Calderazzo - Piano

Few contemporary pairings of saxophonist and pianist have been as inspired and productive as that of Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo.  Since replacing the late Kenny Kirkland in Marsalis’ quartet in 1998, Calderazzo has blended seamlessly into the uncompromising creative atmosphere of the ensemble and revealed new facets of his own conception, while Marsalis in turn has been inspired by the pianist’s challenging instrumental support and growing strength as a composer.  The relationship grows ever deeper, as documented on the new Marsalis Music CD Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. Read more »

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis - Saxophones
Joey Calderazzo - Piano
Eric Revis - Bass
Jeff “Tain” Watts - Drums

Time flies when you are making great music, as Branford Marsalis will be the first to attest. “I had no idea that two years had passed since we made our last album,” says the celebrated saxophonist, composer, producer and leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. The realization prompted a simple charge to Quartet members Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain”Watts. Read more »

Branford Marsalis

Over the course of its life - and most particularly on its previous Marsalis Music scs - the Branford Marsalis Quartet has revealed an ability to express every kind of emotion, including an informed sense of history (on the label-launching Footsteps of Our Fathers in 2002 and the 2004 DVD Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ Live in Amsterdam), a sensitivity to other artistic disciplines (Romare Bearden Revealed from 2003) and a profound sense of intimacy that stretched the concept of a “ballads album” (2004’s Eternal). Read more »

Harry and Branford: A Duo Occasion
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Pianist Harry Connick, Jr. and saxophonist Branford Marsalis are old friends who regularly
surprise the music world with their eclectic tastes and ability to deliver in a variety of idioms.
When the pair got together to record Occasion from Marsalis Music’s Connick on Piano
series, the setting may have been unexpected, but the results were typically challenging and
satisfying. After the positive response that Occasion received upon its spring 2005 release,
further encounters by the pair were inevitable. One particularly memorable set, from the Read more »

A Love Supreme Live In Amsterdam
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For Marsalis Music’s second DVD release, label founder Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been captured in a complete performance of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece A Love Supreme. This legendary suite, which tenor saxophonist Marsalis included on his label’s premier release, Footsteps of Our Fathers, was performed at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis during a European tour in March 2003. Read more »

Romare Bearden Revealed
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Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis  saxophones
Joey Calderazzo  piano
Eric Revis  bass
Jeff “Tain” Watts  drums

Special Guests
Harry Connick, Jrpiano
 Delfeayo Marsalis  trombone
Ellis Marsalis  piano
Jason Marsalis  drums
 Wynton Marsalis  trumpet
Reginald Veal  bass
Doug Wamble  guitar

Jazz musicians have frequently inspired and been inspired by visual artists; but the interchange has never been more direct and intense than on Romare Bearden Revealed. This disc, comprised entirely of newly recorded music, was produced by saxophonist Branford Marsalis in celebration of “The Art of Romare Bearden,” a major retrospective that opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 2003. Read more »

Footsteps of Our Fathers
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Branford Marsalis has never been one to stand still. The acclaimed saxophonist forges new paths with an assurance born of lifelong dedication and keenly honed knowledge, in the company of his stunning quartet. Together they have created Footsteps of Our Fathers, a joyous homage to jazz immortals living and dead who helped shape a value system that inspires not only Branford’s playing and writing, but also his determination to ensure that true creativity will be properly documented through his new Marsalis Music label. Read more »