StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Branford Marsalis, in the tradition


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Although he's known as a thoroughly modern musician, saxophonist Branford Marsalis also is the second-eldest son of one of New Orleans' most famous musical families. So it's no surprise that he's demonstrated an affinity for classic jazz tunes throughout his career, mixing interpretations of well-known standards with his own original compositions both on stage and on record.

Marsalis will be returning to St. Louis to perform here for the first time since 2011 starting next Monday, February 8 through Wednesday, February 10 at Jazz at the Bistro.When he and his quartet take the stage at the Bistro, the leader's proclivities suggest that they're likely to play a few of those songs “in the tradition" as well as their own material. So, today's video showcase post is intended to show how Marsalis approaches some of those classics, via various performances recorded during the past year.

In the first clip up top, Marsalis plays a solo version of “Stardust" in April of last year at the ECHO Jazz awards ceremony in Germany. He recorded the song for his 2014 album In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral, and this version explores a similar territory.

After the jump, you can see Marsalis and his dad, the veteran pianist Ellis Marsalis, performing an impromptu duo version of “Sweet Lorraine" in April of last year in New Orleans. (Note that this video, as well as the rest of today's clips, was shot by an audience member using non-professional gear. That means that while the audio is listenable across the board, the video quality may vary from pretty good, as in the clip of Marsalis and his dad, to not-so-good.)

The third clip shows Marsalis and his long-running quartet- pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner- doing Duke Ellington's “It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" in July 2015 at the Ravello Festival in Italy.

In the fourth video, shot in November 2015 during a master class at La Usina del Arte in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Marsalis and bassist Russell Hall play a duo version of “Tea For Two". The fifth video is from that same trip to South America, and features Marsalis, Hall, Faulkner and pianist Samora Pinderhugues doing Ellington's “In a Mellow Tone" in concert at the Teatro Colon de Buenos Aires.

Last but not least, the sixth and final clip shows Marsalis, Calderazzo, Revis, Faulkner, and guest saxophonist Ponder East playing the venerable NOLA standard “St James Infirmary" at a gig last year in Austin, TX.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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