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Branford Marsalis: Eternal

Mark F. Turner By

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It takes skill to perform a jazz ballad effectively. It's one thing to burn notes with rapid-fire precision, yet another to explore the intricacies of slower ones. Not only is the music a factor, but the dynamics of mood, style, and emotion also come into play. There have been many jazz ballad recordings and now one of today's foremost saxophonists, Branford Marsalis, gives his spin with Eternal.

Consisting of seven compositions with unique contributions from each member of Marsalis' longtime stellar quartet—pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts—the music is thought-provoking and performed with great clarity and life.

On some similarly themed recordings there has been at times an overshadowing sense of melancholia. This is not the case with Eternal, where each composition is translated differently with the commonality that Marsalis states: "All of the songs reflect the idea that there is beauty in sadness. Even sad songs sound happy when some people interpret them..."

The new contributions from each member of the quartet do indeed vary in mood and dimension. Watts' "Reika's Loss" has an atmospheric and light quality, supported by Marsalis' rich soprano voice and Calderazzo's delicate meanderings. Calderazzo's "The Lonely Swan" is brooding yet soulful, with a mid-tempo flow. The cerebral piano and saxophone duet "Muldoon" is offered by bassist Revis, while Marsalis' title composition, "Eternal," is a nearly eighteen minute long piece which begins quietly then builds to a feverish crescendo as each musician contributes to its energy.

True ballads have a timeless quality, and this is proven again on the Billie Holiday tune "Gloomy Monday," which is one of the highlights of the recording. The richness and depth of the 1930's classic "Dinner for One Please, James" is a testament to both the quartet and composer Michael Carr. Performed with the usual impeccable talent with which Marsalis and his quartet have become synonymous, Eternal succeeds at providing both mood and substance.

Track Listing: 1.The Ruby and the Pearl 2. Reika's Loss 3. Gloomy Sunday 4. The Lonely Swan 5. "Dinner for One Please, James 6. Muldoon 7. Eternal

Personnel: Branford Marsalis--Saxophones; Joey Calderazzo--Piano; Eric Revis--Bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts--Drums.

Title: Eternal | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Marsalis Music

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