Composer Bio

Branford Marsalis is an award-winning saxophonist, band leader, featured classical soloist, and a film and Broadway composer. 

Over the span of his decades long career, he has become a multi award-winning artist with three Grammys, EMMY and Tony nominations, a citation by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Jazz Master, and an avatar of contemporary artistic excellence.   

Branford’s screen credits as a composer include original music for: Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks starring Oprah Winfrey, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, the History Channel’s documentary Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, and Rustin starring Colman Domingo. Since its release in November 2023, Rustin has garnered attention and praise, with critics calling the score scintillating, kinetic, vibrant, maintaining the “buoyancy of a man who refused to be kept down.” The critically acclaimed Ma Rainey is the Netflix film adaptation of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, produced by Denzel Washington. And in reviewing the score Vanity Fair proclaimed “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a story in which the music has to be authentic and the details need to be correct. It requires the musical oversight of someone who has this history in his blood. It requires Branford Marsalis.” While The Guardian noted “Marsalis’s work, both recreation and original composition, is as close to perfection as I could imagine.” He received a 2021 EMMY nomination for the original music he composed and produced for Tulsa Burning in the Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) category. 

Broadway has also welcomed Branford’s contributions.  His initial effort, original music for a revival of August Wilson’s Fences, garnered a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in a Play and a Tony nomination for Best Original Score Written for the Theater.  Branford also provided music for The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, and served as musical curator for the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun.  

In addition to the stage and screen, Branford has also composed a symphony commissioned by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, which premieres March 2024.