Tag Archives: branford marsalis

Ellis Marsalis Center for Music opens in New Orleans

27 Aug

Back in January 2010, I took a cab ride from my New Orleans hotel early that morning to the Musicians’ Village in the Upper 9th Ward. The Musicians’ Village is a community conceived by Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., to provide adequate housing for artists and musicians of the city who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Once the cab driver stopped telling me that it would be much “safer” for him to take me on a tour to see all of Brad Pitt’s houses rather than drop me off in the middle of what he called a “rough” neighborhood, he let me out and I was able to see this wonderful community.

Photo by Kevin Kniestedt

Of course it ended up being too early in the morning for me to catch any musicians out and about in the Village (as it should be…what decent working New Orleans musician is up and about at 9:30 in the morning?).

I was, however, able to briefly talk to two men who were surveying a lot at the end of the block. This was the site that would end up hosting the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

Photo by Kevin Kniestedt

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music opened on Thursday, hosting local residents, fellow musicians, supporters, friends and family for its grand opening, including Governor Jindal of Louisiana and Mayor Landrieu of New Orleans, and actress, Renee Zellweger.


There was also a performance from Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., who played a major role in developing the Center as well as the Musicians’ Village (in partnership with Habitat for Humanity).

The Center is not only a performance hall, but will allow opportunity for local students and musicians to take advantage of recording space, classes, computers, and community rooms.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal put it best in his address to the crowd at the dedication:

“The dedication of the Ellis Marsalis Center is about more than money and bricks and mortar. It is another sign of the rebirth of a great city – a city that will be a beacon of entertainment and inspiration for our children and generations to come. Through wars, hurricanes, and floods, one thing has remained unchanged – our people are strong and like none other.”

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“Now in Stores” XIII

24 Jun

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Standing on the Rooftop by Madeleine Peyroux (Decca, June 14, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

On Standing on the Rooftop there’s one very interesting collaborator that may have the key to opening new doors is the Rolling Stones’, Bill Wyman, whom Peyroux met at the Nice Jazz Festival while waiting to hear B.B. King, and the two then began writing together. A strong point for Peyroux this year was performing their song for the children of a displaced persons’ camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this summer. The song, entitled ‘The Kind You Can’t Afford’, Peyroux says, is a testament to owning what money can’t buy. About the visit, she recounts, “I’ve had a sincere desire to be in Haiti ever since I started reading Edwidge Danticat, but never did visit before the storm. It was a life-changing experience which I’ll always remember, and the songs I performed there will now always have that flavor of pure music and joy in my memory.” Other current collaborators include Jonatha Brooke, David Batteau, Andy Rosen, and Jenny Scheinman. The new album is due to be released June 14th, 2011, and Peyroux plans to begin touring again in the US and Europe in early spring. “I think my fans are eager to hear something different,” Peyroux says, and pauses with restraint before adding, “Music has grown into another place in my mind… I am the same singer that I was as a teen, that wants to grow into music, wherever it comes from. I don’t believe I’ve given up anything. I’ve added to myself.” Let’s hope that that little air of restraint doesn’t hold her back.

2. Forever by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White (Concord Records, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – each a powerful force of nature in his own right – have done more in recent decades to redefine jazz-rock fusion and push the limits of its potential than any other musicians today. Together they formed the core of the classic, most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever, the legendary seminal electric jazz fusion band. After reclaiming the jazz-rock world in 2008 with the triumphant return of Return to Forever, Corea, Clarke and White decided to revisit where it all began, to get back to basics and the soul of their relationship.

The result is Forever, a two-CD set of 18 quintessential tunes. Recorded live, disc one of Forever is a best-of sampler from Corea, Clarke and White’s “RTF-Unplugged” world tour in 2009. Highlights include jazz standards “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Waltz for Debby” and “Hackensack,” exquisite Corea-classics “Bud Powell” and “Windows,” Clarke’s beautiful new “La Canción de Sofia” and even RTF pieces “Señor Mouse” and “No Mystery.” Disc two is a bonus CD with its own story.

3. Ninety Miles by Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott (Concord Picante, June 21, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

All distance is relative, especially where geopolitical borders and ideologies are involved. We speak one language, they speak another. We follow our system, they follow theirs. When we focus on the differences, a relatively short stretch of land or water starts to look like a yawning chasm. But when we look at each other as individuals and focus on the similarities, that “chasm” is actually a very short distance. Less than a hundred miles. Musicians – especially jazz musicians, whose craft is in many ways an improvised form of communication – understand this principle inherently, perhaps better than any politician or diplomat could ever hope to. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott cross that divide in their new recording, Ninety Miles.

Recorded entirely in Havana, Cuba, with the help of some highly talented Cuban players – pianists Rember Duharte and Harold López-Nussa, each leading their own quartets – the nine-song set is an experiment that examines the fascinating chemical reaction that takes place when musicians from different cultures come together and converse in a common language that transcends mere words. The set also includes a DVD that is a sneak peek of the forthcoming documentary of the same name that chronicles the recording process of the album in Cuba. It will also include two bonus live performances of “City Sunrise” and “La Fiesta Va.”

4. Songs of Mirth and Melancholy by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo (Marsalis Music, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

In ‘Songs of Mirth and Melancholy’ Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition

It may have taken just three days to record, but this new duo recording from sax player Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo has 13 years of music-making behind it, dating back to when Calderazzo replaced the late, great Kenny Kirkland in the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1998. We’ve come to expect a superabundance of imagination from both these players, but in Songs of Mirth and Melancholy Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition.

5. Voice by Hiromi (Telarc, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara, whose passionate and incendiary keyboard work has been a shining light on the jazz landscape since her 2003 debut, believes that the voice that never speaks can sometimes be the most powerful of all. Her newest release, a nine-song trio recording simply titled Voice, expresses a range of human emotions without the aid of a single lyric.

Although a mesmerizing instrumentalist in her own right, Hiromi enlists the aid of two equally formidable players for this project – bassist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, The O’Jays, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, Jack Bruce). Jackson had previously played on a couple tracks from each of Hiromi’s first two albums – Another Mind in 2003 and Brain in 2004 – but they had never recorded an entire album together. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his bass playing,” she says. “I’ve always liked playing with him, and I was very happy that we finally had the chance to make an entire album together.”

“Now in Stores” XII

“Now in Stores” XI

“Now in Stores” X

“Now In Stores” IX

“Now In Stores” VIII

“Now In Stores” VII

Now in Stores (Late May, June, and July)

“Now in Stores” – 5/16/2010 to 5/22/2010

“Now in Stores” – 5/2/2010 to 5/8/2010

Now in Stores” – 4/25/2010 to 5/1/2010

“Now in Stores” – 4/18/2010 t0 4/24/2010

“Now In Stores” – 5 Noteworthy Jazz Albums Released this Week (4/11/2010-4/17/10)

"Now in Stores" XIII

24 Jun

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Standing on the Rooftop by Madeleine Peyroux (Decca, June 14, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

On Standing on the Rooftop there’s one very interesting collaborator that may have the key to opening new doors is the Rolling Stones’, Bill Wyman, whom Peyroux met at the Nice Jazz Festival while waiting to hear B.B. King, and the two then began writing together. A strong point for Peyroux this year was performing their song for the children of a displaced persons’ camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this summer. The song, entitled ‘The Kind You Can’t Afford’, Peyroux says, is a testament to owning what money can’t buy. About the visit, she recounts, “I’ve had a sincere desire to be in Haiti ever since I started reading Edwidge Danticat, but never did visit before the storm. It was a life-changing experience which I’ll always remember, and the songs I performed there will now always have that flavor of pure music and joy in my memory.” Other current collaborators include Jonatha Brooke, David Batteau, Andy Rosen, and Jenny Scheinman. The new album is due to be released June 14th, 2011, and Peyroux plans to begin touring again in the US and Europe in early spring. “I think my fans are eager to hear something different,” Peyroux says, and pauses with restraint before adding, “Music has grown into another place in my mind… I am the same singer that I was as a teen, that wants to grow into music, wherever it comes from. I don’t believe I’ve given up anything. I’ve added to myself.” Let’s hope that that little air of restraint doesn’t hold her back.

2. Forever by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White (Concord Records, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – each a powerful force of nature in his own right – have done more in recent decades to redefine jazz-rock fusion and push the limits of its potential than any other musicians today. Together they formed the core of the classic, most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever, the legendary seminal electric jazz fusion band. After reclaiming the jazz-rock world in 2008 with the triumphant return of Return to Forever, Corea, Clarke and White decided to revisit where it all began, to get back to basics and the soul of their relationship.

The result is Forever, a two-CD set of 18 quintessential tunes. Recorded live, disc one of Forever is a best-of sampler from Corea, Clarke and White’s “RTF-Unplugged” world tour in 2009. Highlights include jazz standards “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Waltz for Debby” and “Hackensack,” exquisite Corea-classics “Bud Powell” and “Windows,” Clarke’s beautiful new “La Canción de Sofia” and even RTF pieces “Señor Mouse” and “No Mystery.” Disc two is a bonus CD with its own story.

3. Ninety Miles by Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott (Concord Picante, June 21, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

All distance is relative, especially where geopolitical borders and ideologies are involved. We speak one language, they speak another. We follow our system, they follow theirs. When we focus on the differences, a relatively short stretch of land or water starts to look like a yawning chasm. But when we look at each other as individuals and focus on the similarities, that “chasm” is actually a very short distance. Less than a hundred miles. Musicians – especially jazz musicians, whose craft is in many ways an improvised form of communication – understand this principle inherently, perhaps better than any politician or diplomat could ever hope to. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott cross that divide in their new recording, Ninety Miles.

Recorded entirely in Havana, Cuba, with the help of some highly talented Cuban players – pianists Rember Duharte and Harold López-Nussa, each leading their own quartets – the nine-song set is an experiment that examines the fascinating chemical reaction that takes place when musicians from different cultures come together and converse in a common language that transcends mere words. The set also includes a DVD that is a sneak peek of the forthcoming documentary of the same name that chronicles the recording process of the album in Cuba. It will also include two bonus live performances of “City Sunrise” and “La Fiesta Va.”

4. Songs of Mirth and Melancholy by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo (Marsalis Music, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

In ‘Songs of Mirth and Melancholy’ Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition

It may have taken just three days to record, but this new duo recording from sax player Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo has 13 years of music-making behind it, dating back to when Calderazzo replaced the late, great Kenny Kirkland in the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1998. We’ve come to expect a superabundance of imagination from both these players, but in Songs of Mirth and Melancholy Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition.

5. Voice by Hiromi (Telarc, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara, whose passionate and incendiary keyboard work has been a shining light on the jazz landscape since her 2003 debut, believes that the voice that never speaks can sometimes be the most powerful of all. Her newest release, a nine-song trio recording simply titled Voice, expresses a range of human emotions without the aid of a single lyric.

Although a mesmerizing instrumentalist in her own right, Hiromi enlists the aid of two equally formidable players for this project – bassist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, The O’Jays, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, Jack Bruce). Jackson had previously played on a couple tracks from each of Hiromi’s first two albums – Another Mind in 2003 and Brain in 2004 – but they had never recorded an entire album together. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his bass playing,” she says. “I’ve always liked playing with him, and I was very happy that we finally had the chance to make an entire album together.”

“Now in Stores” XII

“Now in Stores” XI

“Now in Stores” X

“Now In Stores” IX

“Now In Stores” VIII

“Now In Stores” VII

Now in Stores (Late May, June, and July)

“Now in Stores” – 5/16/2010 to 5/22/2010

“Now in Stores” – 5/2/2010 to 5/8/2010

Now in Stores” – 4/25/2010 to 5/1/2010

“Now in Stores” – 4/18/2010 t0 4/24/2010

“Now In Stores” – 5 Noteworthy Jazz Albums Released this Week (4/11/2010-4/17/10)

My Top Ten Jazz Albums That You Probably Don’t Own

8 Apr

I recently found myself doing some cleaning of my album collection. More than cleaning, it is a chance for me to revisit some albums that have, through no fault of their own, been sitting on the shelf too long.

I came to realize that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a jazz radio disc jockey, as well as someone who can spend hours in jazz record stores. With the decline in jazz record sales, and the bulk of jazz album sales going to big name vocalists or timeless classic recordings like Kind of Blue, it hit me that just because I have exposure to some wonderful gems of the last thirty years, doesn’t mean that everybody has.

That being said, I decided that I wanted to share my favorite albums from the last thirty or so years that, for one reason or another, might not be sitting on your shelf. And, as always, I encourage you offer your hidden gems.

1. Pilgrimage – Michael Brecker (2007)

pilgrimageEven without the sentimental value of this album (Brecker recorded it while battling MDS and Leukemia, and never did live to release it), it is the best jazz album over the last twenty years. The writing and improvisation from Brecker is stellar, and each member of the band play to their full potential. Winner of two Grammy awards.

Recommended tracks: Tumbleweed, Anagram

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 3

2. Trumpet Evolution – Arturo Sandoval (2003)

trumpet-evolutionMany critics called this the best trumpet album of the last twenty years. Sandoval’s ability to capture the sound and emotion of each trumpet player he honors (19 in all) is something I don’t believe any other musician has the ability or talent to do.

Recommended Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, Up Jumped Spring

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 6

3. Beyond The Missouri Sky – Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny (1996)

beyond-the-missouri-skyTo be honest, I am not a huge Pat Metheny fan. On this album however, you are hard pressed to find a track that isn’t increadibly beautiful. The two musicians are in perfect sync, and you could have this release playing in your CD player over and over for days and continually enjoy it. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: Two For the Road, The Moon Song, Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 1

4. The Birthday Concert – Jaco Pastorious (1981)

the-birthday-concertJaco Pastorious decided to throw himself a 30th birthday party in the form of a concert, and what a party it was. Jaco shows why he is the best electric bass player ever, and his supporting cast (Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and the Peter Graves Orchestra.

Recommended Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken, Invitation

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

5. Flow – Terence Blanchard (2005)

flowAfter going through an embochure change (which just sounds painful to brass players), Blanchard came back strong with this release. Working with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Aaron Parks, this album features wonderful arrangements and performances with alot of intensity.

Recommended Tracks: Over There

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 10

6. An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea – Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea (1978)

an-evening-with-herbie-hancock-and-chick-coreaHerbie and Chick had both gone pretty electric during the late 70’s, so to have them come together and do a live acoustic set was somewhat of a shock. They play extremely well together, and this concert is a wonderful result of that.

Recommended Tracks: Liza

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 8

7. Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis (2000)

contemporary-jazzBranford displays a wonderfully artistic side on the first album with this quartet, which as of today has spent ten years together. While many of the compositions are complex, no member of the band struggles with them. On the contrary, each band member shines as part of a quartet that would continue to make fantastic music together. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: In The Crease

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 12

8. Democracy – Kenny Werner (2006)

democracyI know Kenny Werner is talented. But until this live recording, he had yet to truly move me. David Sanchez and Brian Blade are especially good on this album, and all of Werner’s compositions are especially good.

Recommended Tracks: One For Joni

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: N/A


9. Lucky To Be Me – Taylor Eigsti (2006)

lucky-to-be-meJust 21 at the time of the recording, Eigsti proved that he is the future of jazz piano (in addition to virtuoso Eldar). The performances show maturity, energy, and complexity. Even more impressive is 17 year old guitarist Julian Lage.

Recommended Tracks: Giant Steps, Woke Up This Morning, Love For Sale

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 15

10. Earfood – Roy Hargrove (2008)

earfoodIt is wonderful when a musician can continue to put out music that demonstrates that they have yet to peak. Roy Hargrove continues to get better and better with every album, and this no doubt is his best. While Earfood was snubbed when it came to Grammy nominations, it is widely agreed upon that it was easily the best jazz album released in 2008.

Recommended Tracks: I’m Not So Sure, Speak Low, Bring It On Home To Me

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

My Top Ten Jazz Albums That You Probably Don't Own

8 Apr

I recently found myself doing some cleaning of my album collection. More than cleaning, it is a chance for me to revisit some albums that have, through no fault of their own, been sitting on the shelf too long.

I came to realize that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a jazz radio disc jockey, as well as someone who can spend hours in jazz record stores. With the decline in jazz record sales, and the bulk of jazz album sales going to big name vocalists or timeless classic recordings like Kind of Blue, it hit me that just because I have exposure to some wonderful gems of the last thirty years, doesn’t mean that everybody has.

That being said, I decided that I wanted to share my favorite albums from the last thirty or so years that, for one reason or another, might not be sitting on your shelf. And, as always, I encourage you offer your hidden gems.

1. Pilgrimage – Michael Brecker (2007)

pilgrimageEven without the sentimental value of this album (Brecker recorded it while battling MDS and Leukemia, and never did live to release it), it is the best jazz album over the last twenty years. The writing and improvisation from Brecker is stellar, and each member of the band play to their full potential. Winner of two Grammy awards.

Recommended tracks: Tumbleweed, Anagram

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 3

2. Trumpet Evolution – Arturo Sandoval (2003)

trumpet-evolutionMany critics called this the best trumpet album of the last twenty years. Sandoval’s ability to capture the sound and emotion of each trumpet player he honors (19 in all) is something I don’t believe any other musician has the ability or talent to do.

Recommended Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, Up Jumped Spring

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 6

3. Beyond The Missouri Sky – Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny (1996)

beyond-the-missouri-skyTo be honest, I am not a huge Pat Metheny fan. On this album however, you are hard pressed to find a track that isn’t increadibly beautiful. The two musicians are in perfect sync, and you could have this release playing in your CD player over and over for days and continually enjoy it. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: Two For the Road, The Moon Song, Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 1

4. The Birthday Concert – Jaco Pastorious (1981)

the-birthday-concertJaco Pastorious decided to throw himself a 30th birthday party in the form of a concert, and what a party it was. Jaco shows why he is the best electric bass player ever, and his supporting cast (Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and the Peter Graves Orchestra.

Recommended Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken, Invitation

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

5. Flow – Terence Blanchard (2005)

flowAfter going through an embochure change (which just sounds painful to brass players), Blanchard came back strong with this release. Working with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Aaron Parks, this album features wonderful arrangements and performances with alot of intensity.

Recommended Tracks: Over There

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 10

6. An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea – Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea (1978)

an-evening-with-herbie-hancock-and-chick-coreaHerbie and Chick had both gone pretty electric during the late 70’s, so to have them come together and do a live acoustic set was somewhat of a shock. They play extremely well together, and this concert is a wonderful result of that.

Recommended Tracks: Liza

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 8

7. Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis (2000)

contemporary-jazzBranford displays a wonderfully artistic side on the first album with this quartet, which as of today has spent ten years together. While many of the compositions are complex, no member of the band struggles with them. On the contrary, each band member shines as part of a quartet that would continue to make fantastic music together. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: In The Crease

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 12

8. Democracy – Kenny Werner (2006)

democracyI know Kenny Werner is talented. But until this live recording, he had yet to truly move me. David Sanchez and Brian Blade are especially good on this album, and all of Werner’s compositions are especially good.

Recommended Tracks: One For Joni

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: N/A


9. Lucky To Be Me – Taylor Eigsti (2006)

lucky-to-be-meJust 21 at the time of the recording, Eigsti proved that he is the future of jazz piano (in addition to virtuoso Eldar). The performances show maturity, energy, and complexity. Even more impressive is 17 year old guitarist Julian Lage.

Recommended Tracks: Giant Steps, Woke Up This Morning, Love For Sale

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 15

10. Earfood – Roy Hargrove (2008)

earfoodIt is wonderful when a musician can continue to put out music that demonstrates that they have yet to peak. Roy Hargrove continues to get better and better with every album, and this no doubt is his best. While Earfood was snubbed when it came to Grammy nominations, it is widely agreed upon that it was easily the best jazz album released in 2008.

Recommended Tracks: I’m Not So Sure, Speak Low, Bring It On Home To Me

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

Concert Review: Branford Marsalis 3/19/09 at Jazz Alley

23 Mar

branford-marsalis1It is rare that I take a vacation, especially a vacation that lasts longer than just a long weekend. For me to have a full week off is virtually unheard of. That being said, I decided that since I was going to take a week of, but was not going to leave town, I needed to make the most of it and fill my days to the brim with local entertainment.

What I began to realize is that sometimes the best form of entertainment during a much needed break can be going to bed early and waking up late. Hosting a midnight to 4 AM radio program combined with a variety of other work responsibilities doesn’t always allow for a normal sleep schedule, so I decided to take more time to find out what that was all about and less time seeking out things to do in the community.

One plan that I wasn’t about to give up in exchange for an early bedtime was emceeing opening night for Branford Marsalis at Jazz Alley in Seattle last Thursday. The only other time that I have seen him live was the last time he performed at the Alley, with his father Ellis playing piano as part of his quartet. While it was nice to see dad join the group, it was rumored that Branford had to hold his playing back a little bit with Ellis, and I definitely wanted to see Branford cut loose with his regular group.

His regular group has not changed over the last ten years, at least on his album recordings. Branford heads up the gang on saxes, while Joey Calderazzo plays piano, Eric Revis is on bass, and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. Tain was not present for the concert, but in his place was a baby-faced eighteen year old by the name of Justin Faulkner. In fact it was his eighteenth birthday that night.

If it appeared that Marsalis was picking on Faulkner that night (be it yelling direction in his ear, or making fun of how Faulkner couldn’t play the next song two years ago and we would “see if he could get it right this time”), I didn’t translate it as so. In fact to me it appeared that Branford just wanted to make sure that, in a roundabout way, he was recognized and noticed. It certainly wasn’t needed. While Faulkner wasn’t the best musician in the band, he was certainly a highlight, offering colorful solos and entertaining playing overall.

Marsalis, Revis, and Calderazzo, as you might expect after ten years together, were in perfect sync, and the quartet as a whole kept the room energized for the entire show. Marsalis was articulate and artistic with his solos, but with the exception of directing traffic on stage, he didn’t overshadow any of his quartet members. One could be totally entertained simply watching Joey Calderazzo’s body language on stage, if it weren’t for his overwhelming playing ability. It is also apparent that Calderazzo has taken an active interest in studying classical music, as some of his beautiful ballad writing (take The Blossom of Parting for example) might suggest.

Even without “Tain” Watts, the quartet was evidence of what spending such a considerable amount of time together could produce. The ability to have such a clear understanding of where each musician is headed and how to best support them through sometimes complicated songs, while producing such a wonderful, “together” sound is reason why this quartet might be the best around.

Building a “Trendy” Dream Big Band Part 1 of 2

1 Feb

I recently made a post talking about trendiness in jazz, and in previous posts I constructed my own personal dream big band, consisting of my favorites of all time, living or deceased.

I’ve decided to mix the two. I’ve created a big band that consists of living musicians that I consider to be some of the trendiest or hippest or most visible musicians today. Just like my original dream big band posts, this is purely my opinion, and no doubt every person out there might construct something different (which is why I always ask for you to post yours).

That being said, enjoy (or hate) this grouping of musicians that I think are doing what it takes to keep jazz entertaining, edgy, fun, exciting, trendy, hip, etc., etc., etc. In part 1, the trumpets and saxes!

The Trumpets

Lead Trumpet: Arturo Sandoval

Arturo is still the big name these days in screaming trumpet players. It is rare to attend a show of his and not be a part of a excited, roaring audience.

Watch Arturo Sandoval play Groovin’ High:

Second Trumpet: Wynton Marsalis

I don’t know if it helped or hurt his “trendiness rating” by recording with Willie Nelson recently, but appearances on shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report still make him the most visible jazz musician alive.

Wynton’s trendiness shown in an IPod ad:

Third Trumpet: Roy Hargrove

Roy represented all trumpeters in 2008 with an album that was likely the best jazz album of the year. Always with a hip band and getting better all the time.

Hargrove’s solo on Impressions with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker:

Fourth Trumpet: Terence Blanchard

This guy oozes cool. Someone who absorbed every minute he spent with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and made his trendiness known by writing and recording scores for multiple Spike Lee films.

Terence in Tokyo 2005:

Fifth Trumpet: Nicholas Payton

He has a tendency to become your favorite trumpet player after you see him perform live. He is extremely versatile and his recordings show a wide range of talents.

Watch Nicholas Payton play Bags Groove:

The Saxes:

1st Alto: Kenny Garrett

Whatever it was that he picked up from working with Miles Davis, I’m happy he did. He is extremely inventive and entertaining, and has managed to soak up some of that edginess from Miles in the 80’s.

Kenny playing Wayne’s Thing:

2nd Alto: Maceo Parker

So what if he advertises himself at 98% funk and 2% jazz? Every band needs some funkiness (Just ask James Brown when Maceo was his music director). His shows are as entertaining as it gets.

Watch Maceo Parker perform Pass the Peas:

1st Tenor: Branford Marsalis

Although he might have been considered a little bit dry during his short run as Jay Leno’s band leader on the Tonight Show, it was network exposure of a great jazz musician, earning him trendy points. He also continues to produce some of the most artistic albums in modern jazz.

Branford shows off his trendiness playing Roxanne with Sting:

2nd Tenor: Joshua Redman

The coolest man holding a sax these days, and maybe the smartest. The Ivy League grad has put out some of the coolest recordings in the last decade.

Joshua Redman and Stevie Wonder pay tribute to Duke Ellington:

Baritone Sax: Ronnie Cuber

A ton of power and energy. No wimps in this all star band!

Ronnie plays Filthy McNasty:

The rest of the band next time!!!

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