Jazz News

December 11, 2014

Branford Marsalis: In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

Jeff Tamarkin

In jazz, certain instruments lend themselves well to solo performance more than others: Most major pianists, at one time or another, play a solo concert and solo guitar is also plentiful in the concert hall and on record. Saxophone is riskier—sans rhythm section, the saxophonist must hold the attention of the listener via the sheer strength of melody or, with avant-gardists who’ve gone this route, ear-bending experimentalism. Branford Marsalis’ 2012 performance at San Francisco’s regal Grace Cathedral is never in danger of losing its way or its audience. Alternating between tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, and slipping seamlessly between standards—a celestial “Stardust”—classical, a blues and a series of improvisations, Marsalis uses silences and the room’s natural acoustic properties as his accompanist, filling it with glorious sound. In a sense, he’s also jamming with himself, and in doing so, finds that Branford Marsalis makes an excellent partner for Branford Marsalis.