Classical Bio

Branford Marsalis has stayed the course.  From his early acclaim as a saxophonist bringing new energy and new audiences to the jazz art, he has refined and expanded his talents and his horizons as a musician, composer, bandleader and educator – a 21st Century mainstay of artistic excellence.

Classical music inhabits a growing portion of Branford’s musical universe.  A frequent soloist with classical ensembles, Branford has become increasingly sought after as a featured soloist with such acclaimed orchestras as the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago, Detroit, Düsseldorf, and North Carolina Symphonies and the Boston Pops, with a growing repertoire that includes compositions by Debussy, Glazunov, Ibert, Mahler, Milhaud, Rorem, Vaughn Williams, and John Williams. 

Under the direction of conductor Gil Jardim, Branford Marsalis and members of the Philharmonia Brasileira toured the United States in the fall of 2008, performing works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged for solo saxophone and orchestra. This project commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the revered Brazilian composer’s death. He first appeared with the New York Philharmonic in the summer of 2010, and was again invited to join them as soloist in their 2010‐2011 concert series where he unequivocally demonstrated his versatility and prowess, bringing “a gracious poise and supple tone… and an insouciant swagger” (New York Times) to the repertoire. In 2013, Branford served as Creative Director for the Ascent Series of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which included two week-long residencies as well as a number of concerts with the CSO. Once again partnering with an esteemed ensemble for a tour of the United States, Branford joined the highly celebrated Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in Marsalis “Well-Tempered” on a 20-city US tour in the fall of 2014, performing Baroque masterpieces by Albinoni, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and others. Raising the bar yet again, Branford took on the challenging Saxophone Concerto by composer John Adams, performing the piece with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Edwin Outwater, in October 2015.

To begin 2016, Branford traveled to Germany for a concert with the prestigious Bayerische Staatsoper at the National Theatre in Munich performing an array of selections including Ter Velduis’ Tallahatchie Concerto. He then returned to Asia twice in the spring of 2016, first for his debut collaboration with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, followed by a trip to Kuala Lumpur where he performed two concerts with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Petronas Twin Towers. The fall of 2016 saw Branford returning to his home state of Louisiana where he was invited to be a guest soloist with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, presenting works by John Williams and Heitor Villa Lobos. Over the next few years, he performed with numerous esteemed ensembles including the Detroit Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony and Jacksonville Symphony. He further traveled around the world performing with orchestras in Canada, Denmark, Australia, and France.

Emerging from the global pandemic in January 2022 Branford first returned to the New York Philharmonic to perform John Adam’s Saxophone Concerto, which highlighted his incredible agility and the instrument’s lyrical voice. Branford then launched a tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, in a program which explored the intersectionality of jazz and classical music with repertoire selections including Debussy’s jazz-inspired Rhapsody for alto saxophone and chamber orchestra. Later that year, he performed John Williams’ Escapades in Tanglewood’s celebration of Williams’ 90th birthday. In 2023 Branford performed with symphonies in Miami, Greensboro, Toledo and Corpus Christi, as well as with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Calgary Philharmonic. He also traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto to perform with the Makoto Ozone group in Japan. Mr. Marsalis recently composed a symphony commissioned by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, which premiers March 2024.

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