Straight No Chaser -Podcast with Branford
Podcast 667: A Conversation with Branford Marsalis
No album title in recent memory was more to the point than the Branford Marsalis Quartet’s 2012 release Four MFs Playin’ Tunes. That CD was filled with the kind of great give and take that only musicians steeped in tradition, and heady enough to work off and with each other could make. The core of the band – Saxophonist Marsalis, bassist Eric Revis and pianist Joey Calderazzo – has been together for more than twenty years, while drummer Justin Faulkner just celebrated a decade with the group. We haven’t had a pure quartet album since then, as Marsalis and crew backed singer Kurt Elling in recording and touring in support of their collaboration Upward Spiral.
That drought is over with the release of The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. A true group effort, the album allows room to showcase the different band members’ strengths and talents, always towards a cohesive sound. Branford stressed the importance of having players who actually “like” playing jazz, as opposed to those looking for “vehicles for improvisation” against which they can solo and flex their chops. Calderazzo and Revis each wrote two strong tunes for the project – with Calderazzo’s “Conversation Among the Ruins” and Revis’ “Dance of the Evil Toys” two of the finest. There are also two well-chosen covers – Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup,” which gets a great re-working and Andrew Hill’s “Snake Hip Waltz”, brought to the band by Eric Revis.
During the course of our conversation, we discussed the making of The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, plus reminisced about Marsalis’ jazz/hip-hop project Buckshot LeFonque and talked about what he brings to his playing when he works with singers, and in performing classical music. Marsalis had a reunion of sorts with members of the Grateful Dead touring as Dead & Company last summer at the Lock’n Festival, reprising some of the tunes he played in a classic 1990 date at Nassau Coliseum in New York. That show, often rated as one of the Dead’s best, was released as Wake Up to Find Out.
Musical selections for Podcast 667 include “Conversation Among the Ruins” and “Snake Hip Waltz”, plus a portion of “Bird Song” from the Lock’n show on August 26, 2018.