You’ve gotta love what Branford Marsalis is all about. In today’s music industry, where creativity is mostly overlooked in favor of bottom line issues, Branford makes the break from his long-time record label (Columbia) to start Marsalis Music.
I first heard about Marsalis Music during a lecture (presented by the Seacoast Jazz Society) by former Boston Globe jazz writer Bob Blumenthal. The stated purpose of the label is to present new jazz artists to the public and allow them to do what they do best: be creative. Bransford has complained (rightly so!) that record companies have no interest in the future of an artist if the short term doesn’t involve profit. It’s so great to see an established artist make a statement like this. It’s even better to see something done about it.
But it’s not that statements like this are anything new for Branford. Outside of his “traditional” jazz gigs (playing with Art Blakey, recording with both his father (Ellis) and brother (Wynton), soundtrack work for Spike Lee) he has also:
played in Sting’s first post-Police group, held the bandleader chair for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and lead his own jazz/fusion/hip-hop group Buckshot LeFonque (which he financed out of his own pocket!)
Oh, so what’s the music like? Footsteps Of Our Fathers contains Branford’s tribute to some of the figureheads of jazz: Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, The Modern Jazz Quartet, and John Coltrane. I’m not as familiar with the Sonny Rollins and MJQ selections (“Freedom Suite” and “Concorde”) as I am with Ornette’s “Giggin” and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. “Giggin” is electric. Branford’s sax is propelled along by the twists and turns of the bass & drums duo of Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain” Watts (one of my favorite drummers). And then there’s “A Love Supreme”. The word that comes to mind is volcanic. I don’t want to say that it’s better than the original as that just wouldn’t be fair to Trane. Let’s just say that this is no young-lion rendering. This has some real fire and is full of passion.
So Branford has made his statement. Now it’s time to make yours. Buy this record. Today.