New Branford Marsalis project to see vinyl-only release on Record Store Day

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Saxophonist Branford Marsalis will issue his new release Four MFs Playin’ Tunes on deluxe 180-gram high definition vinyl as part of Record Store Day, April 21, 2012.

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes is the initial Marsalis studio project to feature drummer Justin Faulkner, who joined the band in 2009, and first-ever vinyl release from Marsalis Music. The group is rounded out by pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis.

In describing Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, Marsalis recalls a television interview program on which famed bandleader and drummer Art Blakey was asked to describe jazz in one word. Blakey’s answer? “Intensity, intensity, intensity.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Family patriarch, long-time jazz educator and noted New Orleans modernist Ellis Marsalis discusses the term ‘jazz,’ saying: “Music can never be changed by a name.”]

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes will be available on compact disc and digitally on August 7. Vinyl purchases will come with a download card that enables purchasers to register to receive a free digital copy of the album on August 7. Included are a series of original compositions by members of the band, a Thelonious Monk classic, and one standard dating to 1930.

Revis describes the sessions as “natural, like home” and characterized the band as “family” stressing that the “implicit trust” among the band members is key to the success of their collaboration. Faulkner adds: “Like Eric said, we’re a family, and in a family discussion, everyone has something to give to the conversation.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Branford Marsalis. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

BRANFORD MARSALIS – FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FATHERS (2002): 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.

BRANFORD MARSALIS – BLOOMINGTON (1992): The jazz ideal is this: a hard-blowing, maybe bluesy horn player, sweat drops dripping down his nose, fronting a filterless rhythm section. And the scene, no doubt, is this: Dim and sticky room in the middle a bustling mileau, with taxis and tourists groaning outside, businessmen passing vagrants near the front door, steam rising from the sewer grates. Well, on Branford Marsalis’ “Bloomington,” forget it. This recording, done live during Marsalis’s 1991 tour, was made in bucolic Bloomington. In Indiana. At this off-handed venue, on what might have been a nondescript tour stop, Marsalis and his explosive sidekicks — drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and bassist Robert Hurst III — do a number on all those expectations. Branford said the message on this album was simple: “We’re going on a ride, guys. Why don’t you take a seat, strap yourself in and hold on.”

ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS – ART COLLECTION (1992): Funky and tough, the Jazz Messengers were, until the very end, a group best heard blasting away on stage as vital, hard bop pioneers. That made this the definitive late-period release from Art Blakey. “Art Collection” features two celebrated tracks with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, as well as one with Bobby Watson and Wynton Marsalis, and another with long-tenured tenor David Schnitter, then three cuts with trumpeter Terence Blanchard and saxophonist Donald Harrison recorded in 1984 and ’85. They auditioned after the Marsalises left Blakey’s band — appropriately enough, as the story goes, at a place called Fat Tuesday’s — in 1982.

BRANFORD MARSALIS – I HEARD YOU TWICE THE FIRST TIME (1991): Neatly mixing two of our favorite topics, Branford Marsalis pays no empty lip-service to exploring blues through the jazz idiom here. In fact, you don’t have to listen more than once to hear that’s he’s gone off the deep blue end. Any CD with appearances by B.B. King, Linda Hopkins and John Lee Hooker isn’t playing footsie. Still, as great as The Concept no doubt is here, Marsalis is nearly swallowed whole by it. The best of the blues-based instrumentals doesn’t even feature Branford’s rhythm section of the time — but bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley from brother Wynton’s septet. (The other great soloist here? No, again, not Branford. It’s guitarist Russell Malone.) Not being able to find too much Branford on a Branford record doesn’t sink it, however. If only because I love the blues so well. Too, the brief flickerings of Marsalis that you do hear are top notch.

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