In Conversation With Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis is one of the most recognisable names in saxophone performance today. His performances and recordings in the jazz, rock and classical worlds are renowned. Branford talks to Jim Muirhead about his life as a jazz saxophonist, his contributions to seminal rock albums, and his dedication for some years now to the classical repertoire.
World-renowned saxophonist and three-time Grammy winner Branford Marsalis has always been a man of numerous musical interests, from jazz, blues and funk to classical music projects. The New Orleans native was born into one of the city’s most distinguished musical families, which includes patriarch/pianist/educator Ellis and Branford’s siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. Branford gained initial acclaim through his work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and his brother Wynton’s quintet in the early 1980s before forming his own ensemble. He has also performed and recorded with a who’s-who of jazz giants including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock and Sonny Rollins.
Known for his innovative spirit and broad musical scope, Branford is equally at home on the stages of the world’s greatest clubs and concert halls, where he has performed jazz with his Quartet and his own unique musical approach to contemporary popular music with his band Buckshot LeFonque. In recent years, Branford also has become increasingly active as a featured soloist with such acclaimed orchestras as the Chicago, Detroit, Düsseldorf and North Carolina Symphonies and the Boston Pops. He premiered Sally Beamish's “Under the Wing of the Rock,” at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow in 2009, and is currently working on other projects with the composer.
He spent two years touring and recording with Sting, and was the musical director of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for two years in the 1990s. He has collaborated with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby, acted in films including Throw Mama from the Train and School Daze, provided music for Mo’ Better Blues and other films and hosted National Public Radio’s syndicated program Jazz Set.