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Interviews

Branford Marsalis: Confident MF Playin’ Tunes

By Published: December 10, 2012
"So it seems to me the NEA decided they were going to use this weird obsession with families that American culture has to elevate the award, because it made all kinds of press. People were talking about it that never talked about it before. Any number of people could have just stopped and breathed for a while and seen how it allows the NEA—in an era where everything's being defunded—to actually stay alive if they got enough press. In an era where small government was in and budgets got chopped down—music is the first place they go [to trim funds]. Instead, what is the discussion [in the jazz community], whether or not there are artistic merits for us to have the award? This is where the great disconnect comes in between musicians who play music and their understanding of its function within a culture. We didn't think we deserved the award. But I understood why they did it. And when the discussion becomes whether we deserve it, it's clear the people who talk about it don't know what they're doing. They don't understand the business of music and what this really is.

"I was happy for my dad. We didn't give a shit, to be honest. ... Jazz musicians are small minded, that's what it is. And a lot of people are small minded. But they're not in my profession, so they don't really matter to this discussion." He adds, "This year, they started bitching about Mose Allison [a 2013 recipient]: 'Does Mose Allison really deserve it?' I said more people have heard of Mose Allison than have heard of better players. And if you can use a guy like Mose Allison to get more awareness for the award, it's a good thing. So here we are again talking about the small picture. It's perpetually small-picture thinking.

"I say there's a disengaged understanding of the showbiz elements of music. Fucking Stravinsky got it. Strauss got it. Everybody got it. Even 'Trane got it." So Marsalis and company plan to push forward, presenting music that challenges but doesn't overwhelm—music that doesn't leap over the basic tenet of building and keeping an audience. And with Four MFs Playin' Tunes out there, he's not looking toward the next record project—unlike many other musicians who often seem to be planning the next one before the current one is even released.

"We tour for a living," states Marsalis. "That's what we do. We play concerts, so the records aren't really so important unless we have something to say. I think jazz musicians and people who write about it need to quit using pop-culture standards. It's not the same shit. The audiences are different. The venues are different. The raison d'etre is often different. So we don't have plans to make any record right now, because we just made one."

Good enough.

Selected Discography

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music, 2012)

Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music, 2011)

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Braggtown (Marsalis Music, 2006)

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Eternal (Marsalis Music, 2004)

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Footsteps of our Fathers (Rounder Records, 2002)

Branford Marsalis, A Love Supreme Live (Marsalis Music, 2004)

Branford Marsalis, Contemporary Jazz (Columbia, 2000)

Branford Marsalis, Buckshot LaFonque (Columbia, 1994)

Horace Silver, It's Got to Be Funky (Columbia, 1993)

Branford Marsalis, I Heard You Twice the First Time (Columbia, 1992)

Grateful Dead, Without a Net (Artista, 1990)

Branford Marsalis, Trio Jeepy (Columbia, 1989)

Sting, Dream of the Blue Turtles (A&M, 1985)

Miles Davis, Decoy (Columbia, 1984)

Branford Marsalis, Scenes in the City (Columbia, 1984)

Wynton Marsalis, Think of One (Columbia, 1983)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Courtney Hawkes

Page 7: Courtesy of Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone


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