Branford Marsalis - Metamorphosen

March 2009
  1. The Return of the Jitney Man
  2. The Blossom of Parting
  3. Jabberwocky
  4. Abe Vigoda
  5. Rhythm-A-Ning
  6. Sphere
  7. The Last Goodbye
  8. And Then, He Was Gone
  9. Samo
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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. “At the end of our European tour this summer, I just told the guys, ‘We’re going into the studio next month.’’ The results of that visit to Durham, North Carolina’s Hayti Heritage Center, Metamorphosen, is another milestone from an ensemble that continues to set the pace regarding jazz creativity. Marsalis Music will release the latest statement by its founder in March 2009.

Marsalis chose the title, which is German for “metamorphoses,” to emphasize the evolution of both his venerable ensemble (now in its second decade with identical personnel) and each individual member. “We’ve all been practicing,” he emphasizes, “and you can hear it in the development of the music and in our sound. The more that each of us practices, the more our individual sounds become centered. Now, while we are all in the same room, it sounds as if each of the instruments were isolated. That’s what practice will do for you.”

Engineer Rob Hunter agrees that the Quartet’s sound is “just as intense as before, but different. What comes out is very clean, and I attribute that to how well the guys are playing.”

Another key element is the ever-widening scope of the band’s repertoire. “We try to do everything,” Marsalis explains. “We run the gamut, and are prepared to play anything at any time, including songs we don’t know. The guys have to be listening to all kinds of music, but these are incredible musicians who are really good at playing in a variety of styles.”

Each member of the Quartet confirms the importance of this approach. “My other sideman experiences let me get better at the stuff I was already good at, but the other stuff never got addressed,” says pianist Calderazzo. “In this band, I’ve had to deal with everything. It’s been like getting a gig with Betty Carter or Art Blakey at an older age. I have more options, and I’ve gotten better.” The proof is in Calderazzo’s inspired playing throughout, and in his two beautiful compositions, “The Blossom of Parting” and “The Last Goodbye.”

For bassist Revis, personal and ensemble growth are inseparable. “Branford and the band have allowed me to realize my own voice. As you become more comfortable, personal barriers start breaking down. I’ve always tried to grow, but now I do it with a purpose -and we’re all like that. You can develop a lot more at home, and this is home.” Revis’ growth is most obvious in his three contributions to the program: the loping “Sphere” (“a specific idea that, once developed, sounded Monkish”), cryptic “Abe Vigoda” and unaccompanied bass feature “And Then, He was Gone,” written to mark his son’s maturity and “leaving the nest.”

Drummer Watts, who has been playing with Marsalis since they were classmates at Berklee College, speaks of how “The band is trying to turn the corner. We can already come from five or six formats strongly; but from this recording on I feel like there will be even more personal avenues. The band is not changing through a consolidated effort, because that probably wouldn’t work. It’s more about individuals picking up their game, and each of us picking up on that. Everyone is also bringing in more music, which also flips a switch. While this is definitely Branford’s group, I feel like it’s my group, too, and I welcome every opportunity to make a statement with it.” This time out, Watts contributes “The Return of the Jitney Man” (“It’s about my father, who did a lot of construction work but also drove a jitney when the holidays approached, and trying to get closer to his work ethic.”) and “Samo ©,” a phrase intended for a larger work that took on a life of its own and is dedicated to the late visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Completing the program is the Quartet’s take on Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-ning” and Marsalis’ own “Jabberwocky,” a treacherous 19-bar form that features his first recording on alto saxophone in over two decades. “I realized that I was the only person who didn’t have a song to bring to the session,” he recalls. “Then I went on a holiday with my family and began to hear ‘Jabberwocky’ in my head. All I had with me was an alto saxophone, and I thought that I’d transcribe it for soprano or tenor when I got home. But it didn’t sound as good on either of those horns, so for that track I’m back on alto.”

“The band is the theme,” Marsalis offers in summing up Metamorphosen. “We just picked songs that are good, and you can’t play the stuff we’re playing unless you’re in a working band.We stay together because we all want to be here. A lot of people prefer to play it safe, touring in ‘super bands,’ being responsible only for themselves. When you have a band, you get defined in comparison to other great bands. And that’s why I play jazz. I want to be defined by a body of work.

“My father likes to call recordings ‘documents,’” Marsalis concludes, “and I know what he means. They document how good you are, or how good you aren’t.” Metamorphosen documents one of the preeminent ensembles in contemporary music, getting even better.

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

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 »

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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 »

Branford Marsalis

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. Read more »

Romare Bearden Revealed
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Branford Marsalis Quartet
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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 »