Branford Marsalis has always had contrarian tendencies. From joining Sting's band to quitting The Tonight Show, he's followed his own path, even when his motivations have moved him away from conventional jazz forms. Today, being the artistic director of his own record label (at a time when record labels are floundering) and playing with the same band mates for the last decade (at a time when keeping anything together for 10 years seems unlikely) simply appear to be the next steps in an atypical career.
Adding to the Branford Marsalis Quartet's uniqueness is the fact that on Metamorphosen, each member of the group makes an equal contribution to the music. Of the nine cuts, only "Jabberwocky" was written by Marsalis, which affords a rare turn for him on alto saxophone. Pianist Joey Calderazzo and longtime drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts each offer two compositions, while bassist Eric Revis is credited with three. Watts' "The Return of the Jitney Man" kicks things off in rollicking fashion, but unlike the take found on the drummer's recent release as a leader, Watts, Calderazzo's piano infuses the tune with a melodicism that softens Marsalis' hard-hitting tenor. Calderazzo's own classical lightness and the unblemished beauty of his own tunes ("The Blossom of Parting" and "The Last Goodbye") are matched by Marsalis' sweetly confident soprano and Revis' "Sphere" makes for a natural segue out of Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" as the bassist establishes a staggering beat.
This group demonstrates how a shared history and unique creative voices intermingle to create a powerful musical statement. The variety of these compositional perspectives and personalized approaches, individualized at their cores yet integrated into a collective whole, makes for an absorbing hour of world-class jazz music.
Track Listing: The Return of the Jitney Man; The Blossom of Parting; Jabberwocky; Abe Vigoda; Rhythm-A-Ning; Sphere; The Last Goodbye; And Then, He Was Gone; Samo.
Personnel: Joey Calderazzo: piano; Branford Marsalis: alto, soprano, tenor saxophone; Eric Revis: bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.