BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (OKeh, 2019)
PERSONNEL: Branford Marsalis (tenor and soprano sax); Joey Calderazzo (piano); Eric Revis (Bass); Justin Faulkner (drums)
- Dance of the Evil Toys
- Conversation Among the Ruins
- Snake Hip Waltz
- The Windup
Of all the members of the Marsalis Jazz Family (which is practically an institution, hence the capital letters), saxophonist Branford should be considered the jazziest. He doesn’t treat jazz as a means of constraint to be played within certain parameters. Rather, he uses the genre as a starting point for further exploration.
His music is open-ended and genre-defying, daring listeners to join him on an adventure. He makes the abstract groovy and the groovy intense. Comparing him to his younger, trumpet-playing brother, a writer once said, “Wynton Marsalis plays jazz. Branford Marsalis is jazz.”
In his quartet, Marsalis has found three kindred spirits who do much more than come along for the ride. The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul is a true collaborative effort where each band member is able to contribute and shine. Each musician feeds off the others, creating a special form of chemistry reserved for the best bands.
Things get off to a frantic start with “Dance of the Evil Toys,” a piece written by bassist Eric Reavis, but dominated by Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo. The two push the melody to its absolute limits, sounding as though things could come completely off the rails at any second. Naturally, they don’t, as each lead is brought back under control with a single unifying riff. The bass and drums share a symbiotic mindset, playing right along with the leads and propelling the piece from underneath.
Calderazzo’s “Conversation Among the Ruins” gives the listener a quick breather, with his piano floating gently over a pleasant rhythm. From there, the album flows beautifully between the robust, the reflective, and the romantic. ”The Windup, ” the album’s final track, does just that, ultimately bringing us back where we started.
Marsalis and his quartet play with the fire and fury of another legendary sax-driven quartet led by John Coltrane. But they are very much their own band, speaking their own wonderful language. This is an album well worth deep exploration.
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