- Phil Freeman
Branford Marsalis, for those who don’t know, is a saxophonist, and the older brother of Wynton Marsalis, the trumpeter and leader of Jazz at Lincoln Center. They’re from New Orleans, and started out working together, first in Art Blakey’s band and then on each other’s albums. They were already on separate paths by the mid-’80s, though, when Wynton started becoming more and more of a traditionalist and Branford joined Sting’s band. He was also the bandleader on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 1995, he played with the Grateful Dead onstage several times in the early ’90s and has guested with other jam bands since then, he played on Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”…basically, he’s a much more adventurous musician than people sometimes think.
I’ve been a fan of his work for a lot of years – albums like Crazy People Music, The Dark Keys, Contemporary Jazz, Braggtown, and Four MFs Playin’ Tunes are all really impressive, high-level acoustic jazz, without being so complex that they’re alienating. His current band includes Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums. Justin’s been with him for ten years, and the other two guys have been around for twenty. They’ve got a new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, coming out in March, and it’s really, really beautiful stuff; I expect it’s gonna be a record I come back to a lot over the course of the year.
In case you’ve never heard an interview with Branford Marsalis before, much like his brother, he has a lot of opinions about what is and isn’t jazz. So you should be prepared for that, when listening to this conversation. It’s a fun one.
Music heard in this episode:
“Spartacus” (Crazy People Music)
“Snake Hip Waltz” (The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul)
“The Dark Keys” (The Dark Keys)