buying what you're selling

branford marsalis and his mf's rolled through ames sunday. it's exciting to have such a prominent name in jazz do a show in your backyard, but i must admit - i could think of about a dozen other guys i would rather hear.  i never really grew up being a fan of his, especially after seeing him play a concert in chicago many years ago, where he proceeded to ostracize the entire audience by playing games with tain all around the bass player.  it felt like they had those big foam fingers on there hands, only with a different digit extended.

i spoke at the preconcert cafe chat, and was graciously comped a couple of tickets.  i was going to the concert, even after a super long day of sitting in an assortment of public school gyms watching 8th grade boys hoop it up, but i wasn't certain that i would walk away impressed.  well, color me silly.

they were very professional.  they were musical.  they were chatty.  they were dressed up.  they seriously played their rear ends off.  i sat up close and was blown away by the ensemble interplay and branford's creative prowess.

branford has had one heckuva career.  famous family of musicians from new orleans, tours and records with sting and bruce hornsby, classical sides, hollywood romances with tv & film, phony laughs for jay leno, adjunct teaching gigs, and riding shotgun with record companies.  let me testify that, after sunday's concert, the man can still get it done.

i like the way he creates ideas, aware of intervallic design. many players get more active in their lines by using scalar ideas or technical exercises.  branford has a knack for expanding and contracting the space between ideas, tilting them in ways that both further expound and foreshadow the chord changes with energy and activity that most settle to achieve through fundamental patterns.
i like the way that he hears an idea and seems to see a variety of directions in which it can go.  the marsalis boys are known for the sports jones, and i can see many parallels between both passions.  branford gets an idea and treats it like a point guard handling the rock.  his tremendous court vision allows him to choose between things he can do independently or ways to incorporate his fellow teammates. his trademark go-to moves are harmonic and rhythmic.

much like his younger brother, branford is a polarizing voice in today's jazz world.  he possesses stiff opinions on nearly every topic and is eager to share when asked.  love him or hate him (and there are plenty of people on both sides of this fence), artists the likes of branford are vital to the staying power of our great american music.  he challenges the institutionalized approach in an effort to help it not only survive, but rise up and become relevant once again.

No comments:

Post a Comment