Friends Conversing in Sound!
The current edition of the Branford Marsalis Quartethas been together for 20 years with the exception of the drummer Jason Faulkner who joined in 2009. Marsalis (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone), Joey Calderazzo (piano), and Eric Revis (bass) have built up quite a rapport and Faulkner (who is just 27 years old) stepped right into his predecessor's Jeff "Tain" Watts's role with nary a dropped beat.
The BMQ's new album, The Secret Between The Shadow and The Soul (Okeh Records), is the first quartet disk in seven years. Five of the seven tunes are originals (two each by Calderazzo and Revis, one by Marsalis) with inspired readings of Andrew Hill's "Snake Hip Waltz" and Keith Jarrett's "The Windup". "....Waltz" (a piece Hill recorded twice in 1975, one with a quartet, the other as a piano solo) is a jaunty piece with playful yet powerful solos from the leader and the pianist plus splendid support from the rhythm section. Faulkner, in particular, sounds as if he is having such a fun time. Revis, who is such a melodic player, joins in on the fun especially on his solo. The Jarrett piece closes the program - if you remember the original with the pianist's "European Quartet" of Jan Garbarek (alto and soprano saxes), Palle Danielsson (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums), this version, once the band moves out of the theme, swings like mad. Calderazzo's solo is inspired from the get-go. Marsalis, on tenor, digs right into his solo, pushed hard by the rhythm section and he rides their powerful waves.
Of the original material, the program opens with Revis's "Dance of the Evil Toys" which scoots along on Faulkner's martial drumming and the composer's rapid-fire circular bass line. The piece changes pace several times, even going "out" for a quick moment, and features strong solos from tenor sax and piano. Revis also contributed "Nilaste", an intimate ballad that pulses with intense work from soprano saxophone and the interactions of the rhythm section. Calderazzo's ballad, "Conversation Among The Ruins" has a lovely full melody for the soprano sax plus strong solos from the composer and excellent brushwork from Faulkner. The pianist's "Cianna" also is a ballad, more uptempo but never rushed. "Life Filtering From the Water Flowers" has a mysterious opening for tenor saxophone before entering into the body of the song. One hears a classical influence in this piece, composed by the leader, especially in Calderazzo's lovely piano unaccompanied piano interlude. When the rhythm section (listen closely how they advance the music) enters, the music takes flight. Marsalis, on tenor sax here, creates a solo with rolling phrases, flowing lines, and powerful emotion.
The Secret Between The Shadow and The Soul is a delightful album. Lively, collaborative, at times powerful, other times sensual, the Branford Marsalis Quartetis at the top of its form. Recorded in Australia during a break of the group's 2018 world tour, the music shines and sings, dances and swings.