On his fourth release for his own Marsalis Music label, Branford Marsalis shows why his quartet is among the best small groups currently active. With pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff "Tain Watts joining him once more, Marsalis encouraged his musicians to write for the band, resulting in a wide range of fresh material for the session.
The leader's "Jack Baker is a swirling theme built from a repeated riff, while Calderazzo's poignant ballad "Hope builds slowly in intensity in an extended workout, with Marsalis switching to soprano sax. Marsalis also utilizes the smaller horn in his bittersweet "Fate, a mournful work that suggests someone attempting to pick up the pieces after the breakup of a long relationship. Watts contributed the thunderous "Blakzilla, a performance reminiscent of the energy of Coltrane's classic quartet, while Revis brought the equally furious "Black Elf Speaks.
One surprise inclusion among all these originals is Baroque composer Henry Purcell's "O Solitude, a 17th Century work treated with reverence that includes a resonant tenor sax solo and Calderazzo's elegant, spacious piano.
Jack Baker; Hope; Fate; Blakzilla; O Solitude; Sir Roderick, the Aloof; Black Elk Speaks.
Branford Marsalis: saxophones; Joey Calderazzo: piano; Eric Revis: bass;
Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums.