A quartet that sure has the swing
BY CHRIS JOHNSON
When a Louisiana-born jazzman comes to town, it is well worth venturing out on a cold winter’s evening to hear him play.
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who has been referred to as “arguably the most respected living U.S. jazz instrumentalist,” has just concluded his latest short tour of Australia with his quartet.
Those of us who braved the weather for one of his 90-minute concerts were soon warmed up by some cool jazz on a cold night.
The Branford Marsalis Quartet is jazz at its ultimate best.
Marsalis switching effortlessly between tenor and soprano sax, bass player Eric Revis, drummer Justin Faulkner and pianist Joey Calderazzo are four cool cats (to unashamedly coin the jazz-beatnik lingo of yesteryear).
These guys know the rules of music so well that they can break them with ease and precision – and never lose the complete attention of their audience.
Jazz isn’t for everyone. Some people are missing out.
Marsalis’s jazz is simultaneously accessible and intricate. Immensely enjoyable at every level.
Opening with Revis’s composition, Dance of the Evil Toys, the quartet gently tiptoed into a timid stream before immersing themselves and the auditorium with a flood of syncopated bliss, full of energy and vigour.
The show continued as it began, with quiet numbers growing increasingly louder, faster, and more frantic.
Each band member taking their solo turns and showing off in style.
At one point, Calderazzo seemed like an enraged madman on the keys as his sound became more and more compelling.
Revis’s double bass playing was outstanding. And you would have to travel a long way to see jazz drum soloing on anywhere near a par with Faulkner’s.
Through it all, bandleader Marsalis played a mix of suavely understated and dramatically over-emphasised saxophone to the delight of everyone.
In between classy original compositions, there were nods in style and song choices to a few well-known jazz greats – Armstrong, Coltrane, Ellington, Bechet – and some not so known greats (Andrew Hill’s Snake Hip Waltz, for one).
Long, winding, improvisations where sometimes it seemed like each instrumentalist was playing his own thing (because he was), came together like clockwork. Such is the magic of good jazz.
Marsalis is a generous bandleader, allowing each member ample limelight while remaining secure in the knowledge of his own brilliance.
And brilliance isn’t overstating it.
The encore of Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing) was the perfect way to end a perfect show. Complete with much-appreciated indulgent solos, the Branford Marsalis Quartet proved to all that the swing is something they possess in abundance.