A Fireside Chat with Branford Marsalis
AAJ: A Love Supreme is a perceived holy grail, why take that on?
BM: I don't buy that thesis at all. The only reason why they think it is his most spiritual album is because he said it's a tribute to God. It's more spiritual than Kulu Se Mama? It is more spiritual than Om? I heard Freddie Hubbard talking about playing on Ascension - he had to leave the room. He just walked out of the studio for a while to get his shit together. If that's not spirituality, come on. I never heard Trane say that. He made other records after that. I never heard Trane say that A Love Supreme was his most spiritual record. We make up these things and they just perpetuate themselves. In order to play it, you have to have an understanding of many, many facets of black culture.
You have to have an understanding of the blues. You have to have an understanding of the impact that the church has on those musicians from that period. You have to be able to be able to play with a certain kind of sustained physical intensity that bands just don't play with anymore. That comes from jazz' tradition during the early days when a lot of successful jazz groups were dance bands. In order to be successful, you had to play with a sustained intensity for four hours in a dance setting. The problem is trying to extend it to 60 minutes is too long. You can't. It is too long. You can't make it 60 minutes. The closest we got to it was 48 minutes. We played it as long as we could play it on that CD and I think it might be 50, maybe. What you have to do is play a couple of songs and then play it and get off the stage because everything that trails it sounds stupid. Everything that trails it sounds fucking sophomoric.
AAJ: Having already documented "A Love Supreme," will you revisit it as a band?
BM: We're kind of done with it. We're doing it one more time next year because it was the specific request of the promoter. I'm working on my own extended piece now. We're working on the next record. It has clearly left an indelible impression on us. I think that when I listen to the group play and interact with one another on Eternal, I link it directly to "A Love Supreme" because it forced us to concentrate on music.
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Branford Marsalis: It's All About the Band