The Times UK: Album Review
Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul review
It’s been seven years since we last had a disc devoted to the Branford Marsalis quartet, but the saxophonist and his steadfast sidemen (two of them have been with him for two decades) make up for it here. In between they made Upward Spiral with Kurt Elling, and Marsalis says that recording with a singer has made him more melodic. He certainly is, but the abundance of tunes also adds to his intensity.
He is fortunate to have two fine composers in his band. The pianist Joey Calderazzo contributes two beautiful ballads, Conversation Among the Ruins, a yearning Joaquín Rodrigo-like melody with a gently rolling rhythm, and Cianna, an inviting tango. The bassist Eric Revis gives us the hesitant, troubled Nilaste and Dance of the Evil Toys, a march that becomes a miasma of ferocious free jazz.
Historic influences abound. Snake Hip Waltz has early-jazz echoes, but the time signature nudges Marsalis’s Sidney Bechet-like soprano into Coltrane territory. Calderazzo follows up with a solo that blends a bluesy right hand with stride influences in the left and a pair of passing references to Monk. A loosely strung Revis evokes a Mingus mood that lingers during the vaguely vaudevillian play-out.
The sole Marsalis original is Life Filtering from the Water Flowers, on which he soliloquises with the stamina of Sonny Rollins. Finally, The Windup, one of Keith Jarrett’s sprightly township tunes, is rocketed into bebop by Calderazzo then postbop for a startling saxophone reverie. This is a quartet that can surely do anything. Let’s hope it isn’t another seven years before they do it on record again. (Marsalis Music/Okeh)