Branford Marsalis Quartet Muster Technical Muscle With Post-Bop Masterclass At London's Barbican Hall
Bookended by a short opening solo piano set from Nikki Yeoh and an encore where the band was joined by UK pianist Julian Joseph, this concert was, as John Cumming from Serious suggested in his opening remarks, a chance to hear what is possibly the leading acoustic jazz quartet in the world today. From the aggressive angularity of the opening ‘Dance of the Evil Toys’ to an excursion into the tradition for a ravishing version of Jimmy McHugh’s ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, and from the moments of freedom in Branford Marsalis’s own ‘Life Filtering from the Water Flowers’ to the sensuous new ballad ‘Cianna’ by pianist Joey Calderazzo, the breadth and depth of the band’s playing bore out the claim.
Whether on tenor or soprano, Marsalis has the knack of making a melodic ballad improvisation sound like a considered part of the composed song, yet he can also launch into ferocious displays of technical mastery, a latterday ‘sheets of sound’ combined with the precise placement of every note. This was especially apparent where the rhythm section dropped back, or when Calderazzo took a breather, and left bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner to pace the saxophonist.
Photo by Roger Thomas