Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Branford's Eternal

At the Ravinia Festival jazz series outside Chicago in June, I caught Ellis Marsalis and a group of young players, son Branford Marsalis and his quartet and Chick Corea, who's playing with several Spanish musicians these days and is supposed to record with them, which I hope he does because the music they made was excellent.

I was as interested, however, in the contrast provided by listening to an Ellis Marsalis-led group followed by a Branford Marsalis-led group. Both were great, as you might expect, but the Ellis Marsalis contingent, as you also might expect, played pretty firmly in traditional jazz mode. I think Branford Marsalis, as I've said before, is the Coltrane of his generation (to James Carter's Sonny Rollins) not in sound, because he very much has developed his own, but in the expansiveness of his conceptions, which are rooted in tradition, as I think Coltrane was even on something like "Ascension," but branch far beyond it

The recent Branford Marsalis Quartet CD "Eternal" is representative of what I heard at Ravinia. "Reika's Loss" and "The Lonely Swan" are good examples of the kind of what I think of as "controlled avant-garde" playing I admired during the concert, the latter quite intricate. Meanwhile, there are heroic runs in "Gloomy Sunday" and "Muldoon" that remind me of Coltrane's breakout LP "Giant Steps," an early manifestation of what came to be known as sheets of sound, if in a uniquely Marsalis style. Joey Calderazzo is quite good and complimentary on piano throughout. I doubt you will be dancing to this advanced music, but you're likely to find yourself listening closely to catch its intricacies.

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