Further thoughts from Branford Marsalis

About a year ago, I read an interview with Branford Marsalis in the Seattle Weekly in which he discusses some of the challenges facing contemporary jazz artists and audiences.

At the beginning of August, NPR published on their website the transcript of another interview with Branford, this time with Guy Raz from NPR's All Things Considered.

The interview is fairly wide-ranging and, in my mind, excellent. Discussion starts with Branford's new quartet album, but then goes off in several directions, covering Branford's experience growing up a Marsalis, his experience with Art Blakey, his choice of side musicians and home town, fatherhood, and pop music. Branford's insights into some of the issues facing jazz today - the music, musicians and audience - I found to be especially interesting.

When discussing club audiences, he suggests that people need a casual atmosphere in order to feel comfortable listening to the music, and implies perhaps that "quiet policies" are counter to that casual atmosphere.

When discussing what some musicians are playing these days, he says, "It's our job to know what we're playing; it's the audience's job to feel what we're playing. And if they have to know what you're playing to appreciate it, you fail."

He echoes the sentiments presented in the Seattle Weekly interview when it comes to contemporary composition - it still needs to make audience members "feel" something; it must have an emotional pull.

But rather than rehash his opinions here, I encourage you to read the article for yourself. I don't know Branford personally, but the more I read of him, the more impressed I am with how much thought he gives to his music. He raises good points with which surely not everyone will agree, but which require discussion and examination. And, given the raves I've heard of his two recent GTA performances (with Joey Calderazzo at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival in 2011 and with his quartet in Brampton this past summer), he clearly practices that which he preaches.

Speaking of great music, I'm planning on taking in two shows this evening which promise to be exciting. First I'll be at Gallery 345 for Brian Dickinson's CD release featuring Jim Vivian, Ted Warren and special guest saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi (complete details here); then I'm off to the Tranzac to catch me some Gord Grdina - he plays with his world/jazz mega-group Haram around 9 pm, then with Fond of Tigers around 10 pm. Details here.

I hope to see you in one place or the other...


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