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Interviews

Delfeayo Marsalis: His Time

By Published: December 4, 2006

Branford is co-producer of the album, with Delfeayo.

"Recording with Branford is something else," says his sibling. "He just dominates sometimes, he's so confident. Like in one song, he was supposed to play a G-flat. He said he wanted to play G. I said, 'Well it's supposed to be G-flat.' He says. 'No, G,' and that was it, Delfeayo says with a chuckle. "But I like that. With my brothers, you will get the most honest opinion about what we think is best for the music. I could have vetoed it (the G), but then I heard it and said, 'Yeah, maybe that is a better note.' I appreciate that.

Marsalis is also proud of the fact that the band "doesn't sound like a bunch of guys that just went into a studio, for the sole purpose of recording. "I want my band to sound like a working group. And this does, even though we hadn't worked together that long. It sounds like we'd been playing for a long time, which is what I want.

Marsalis is taking that music on the road, but with a different touring group. Still, they are playing as much as they can. While the dates are infrequent through 2006, they are being scheduled into 2007, he says.

"The time's right for me to get out there, he says, admitting that he could have more notoriety as a player had he not spent time with the likes of Art Blakey, Abdullah Ibrahim, Jones, Slide Hampton and Max Roach. But waiting in the wings was worth it. "I learned so much with Elvin and it was so valuable and I was also leading my own band. If I hadn't gone with Elvin, I might have ten albums. But that's not the point. I didn't feel it was important to just be cranking out recordings. That's not the way it went. But now I'm going to be out there playing more.

In a mid-September concert in Lake George, NY, Marsalis played a strong set with Mark Shim on sax, Anthony Wonsey on piano, Delbert Felix on bass, Dirt Red on percussion and Ralph Peterson on drums (at times, brother Jason Marsalis plays drums in the band, depending on availability). The horns and piano provided outstanding solos as they swung through Marsalis' music, propelled by Peterson's busy, aggressive, crackling drums. When it came time to change the pace, Delfeayo warmed the crowd on a chilly outdoor evening with a poignant and pointed "What a Wonderful World. His band is capable of capturing many moods from sweet to explosive and it was reflected in a fine set of music. At one point, a young woman stepped on stage, dancing with obvious glee (and a pinch of eroticism).

We let her go, he explains later. "That's how this music makes people feel. It moves them. It feels good. It's the people's music.

Marsalis is ready to take it to them, joining the ranks with his brothers.

Born in New Orleans, where he still lives, Marsalis said a noted pianist in the Crescent City told him he was taking students to see his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, perform in concert. He told Delfeayo, "After [Ellis] is done, there aren't any more like that in New Orleans.

"Man, I never thought of it that way, Marsalis says. "In New Orleans, if my band isn't playing, there's a void. There's no music like that down there right now.

It's right for Marsalis, who began studying trombone at age thirteen and attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. While jazz was prominent in the family, he was also classically trained, encouraged by his parents to be well rounded. "That was very important in my development of the right sound. There are so many more stages of development in classical music, hundreds of years, as compared to jazz. He attended the Berklee College of Music, majoring in both performance and audio production, and his knack for organizing an highly developed sense of sound kept him in the producing ranks for a while.

The producing bug started much earlier than college.

While his first official credit was producing one of his father's records, Syndrome (Elm, 1985), he really had the interest and started fussing with sounds at an even younger age, perhaps sixth or seventh grade he recalls, because brother Wynton needed someone to make the audition tapes for his band. "I was around the house a lot, so I just started to record for them. I had the microphone. I learned by getting in and doing it with elementary equipment and an ability to listen and figure things out.

"I would always be listening to records and I'd say, 'Man, how did they get that sound?' And I would try to figure it out. Then one day I saw a picture in this book of Miles Davis in a large recording studio, and it stirred his analytical mind. "I said to Wynton, 'Man, you got to get yourself a bigger room.' And not long after, an old ABC studio was rediscovered and put to good use, helping people like Wynton and Branford get great sounding albums under Delfeayo's watchful eye ... and ear.



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