Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
From January 1992 to September 2001, Branford Marsalis set the JazzSet pace, hosting 39 new shows a year (now we do 26) from the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band; festivals in Iowa City, Telluride, Pasadena, Mount Hood, Montreal and Brevard, N.C.; the new music festival in Groningen, the Netherlands, and the Havana Jazz Festival in Cuba; clubs from Yoshi’s in California to Sculler’s and the Regattabar in Boston. WGBH producer Steve Schwartz sent us lots of Boston sets during that first decade, all of them much appreciated.
Marsalis stepped up and played with his trio at Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, and again with his quartet in Washington Square Park at a Greenwich Village Jazz Festival. Son Reese Marsalis (age 12) hosted those shows. Reese was an audience favorite, and his voice has a presence. You can hear him chime in on this edition, where he’s sure to make you smile.
Just like JazzSet, personnel changes in the Branford Marsalis Quartet have been few and far between for almost 20 years. His philosophy is that — though the players are consistent — the music should evolve and be challenging, should center on the melody and convey emotions. Hearing is at the heart of playing together, he says, and adds that hearing is not a God-given gift; it’s an acquired one.
From a set recorded March 29, 2012, at the Napa Valley Opera House, check out how the first two tunes here end on a dime. The familiar form — repeating the melody plus a coda — is thrown out like an old crutch, no longer needed.
Branford Marsalis’ new album is Four MFs Playin’ Tunes on Marsalis Music. Nate Chinen of The New York Times says it’s a “knockout.”
Thanks to the Napa Valley Opera House in Napa, Calif., for hosting this edition of JazzSet. Thanks to Sherry McAdams of Marsalis Music and Peter Williams at Napa Valley Opera House. Recording by Michael Romanowski of Coast Recorders in San Francisco, with Kyle Heartt and Rob Wacko Hunter. Surround Sound mix by JazzSettechnical director Duke Markos.