Branford Marsalis Quartet review: The unbearable lightness of playing

06.03.18
Branford Marsalis
The Sydney Morning Herald

They begin at such a whisper they almost have you leaning forward in your seat, and then suddenly spin into the thrills and spills of bassist Eric Revis's? Dance of the Evil Toys – aptly named, given its wicked syncopations. The energy level is instantly blistering, but without the usual connotation of vigour: this is more like dancing on air.

It is eight years since saxophonist Branford? Marsalis?, a decidedly more open-minded conceptualist than his trumpet-playing brother, Wynton, was last in Sydney, and never has he or his band sounded better. This line-up, completed by pianist Joey Calderazzo?, Revis? and drummer Justin Faulkner, has been intact since 2009, playing music (from the main channel of the wide river called jazz) with such brilliance that it could easily be overly glossy, were it not realised via bristling imaginations, startling cohesion and this four-way weightlessness.

Where so many tenor saxophonists lean on John Coltrane's? legacy, Marsalis? carries more echoes of Sonny Rollins, except he deploys a much lighter tone. Meanwhile his soprano sound, never reedy or nasally, has a bell-like roundness and clarity, and he nodded to the great Sidney Bechet? in the singular effervescence lighting up both Andrew Hill's Snake Hip Waltz and a suitably blithe On the Sunny Side of the Street. Yet Marsalis? could also use the soprano to tear at a song's seams, building almost frightening potency.
 
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