Branford Marsalis
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New Orleans-born saxophonist Branford Marsalis (1960) cut his teeth with Art Blakey (1980-81) and younger brother Wynton Marsalis (1982-1985), developing a style reminiscent of John Coltrane while retaining the romantic flavor of the mainstream jazz whose demise Coltrane had caused. After a stint with pop singer Gordon "Sting" Sumner, Branford Marsalis debuted as a leader on Scenes In The City (november 1983), with Solstice, Royal Garden Blues (july 1986), the mediocre Renaissance (january 1987), Random Abstract (august 1987), with Crescent City and Broadway Fools (on soprano saxophone), Trio Jeepy (january 1988), with Housed From Edward and Random Abstract (on soprano saxophone). Specializing at the tenor saxophone but doubling on soprano, and employing variable ensembles, Marsalis failed to exhibit an original persona or a musical program.

His group finally stabilized as a quartet with pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts on Crazy People Music (march 1990), containing Spartacus and Wolverine (on soprano saxophone). Marsalis did even better in a trio without the pianist on The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (june 1991), possibly his compositional peak, from The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (on soprano saxophone) to Gilligan's Isle, from Dewey Baby to Xavier's Lair, turning the apparent contradiction of his Coltrane-ish tradionalism into a personal language.

After collaborating with blues greats on I Heard You Twice The First Time (october 1991), Branford Marsalis formed Buckshot LeFonque with djs, rappers and an army of jazz musicians to concoct an exuberant fusion of hip-hop, jazz and rhythm'n'blues on Buckshot LeFonque (july 1993) and Music Evolution (1996). That experiments helped Marsalis craft the stylistic Babel (hard-bop, rock, funk) of the trio's The Dark Keys (august 1996), notably The Dark Keys, Sentinel and Lykief on soprano.

The piano-based quartet of Requiem (december 1998) wed this acquired eclectism with the original the Coltrane-ish stance (A Thousand Autumns, 16th St Baptist Church) although the recording was left unfinished after the death of Kirkland (a trio-only version of Elysium). He was replaced by Joey Calderazzo on Contemporary Jazz (december 1999), that featured the full-blown 16-minute version of Elysium for piano-based quartet. The 18-minute Eternal was a comparable tour de force for the same quartet on Eternal (october 2003), a postmodernist take on the form of the ballad that managed to bridge the lyrical Duke Ellington and the metaphysical John Coltrane. The smooth, eloquent and austere tone of these lengthy compositions finally granted Branford Marsalis a major among the neo-traditionalists after a much tortuous journey.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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