The Jazzcat

Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Smothers Theater at Pepperdine in Malibu

by on May.19, 2014, under News


It had been quite some time since I have seen Branford in the west but the audience here at the Smothers Theater here at beautiful Pepperdine University is packed, stacked and ready to receive.

Tonight, as we as with most nights, we have Joey Caldarazzo on piano, Eric Reevis on bass, and for me for the first time, Justin Faulkner on drums. To have a band for so many years is to have a family. Traveling, living, eating, joking and playing together allows for the love to flow between the rhythms, harmonies and cognitive space in, between and around all of the notes.

Most people think they know music. You might hear them talk about all of the concerts that they have seen, of the albums that they own and how they hung out one time with this artist or that artist. And perhaps you as a music novice may be excited by those rants of jazz knowledge.  Just bear in mind that those are the experiences of one individual and the only way to truly get the fulfillment of the music is to venture down your own path of jazz enlightenment and let the vibrations of the music give meaning to you.  The truth is that all we can do is be open to it. You may know some of the songs of the artists and are probably anticipating hearing them when you purchase your ticket to the concert. Chances are you will get your wish but realize, that music was created in a certain place in time and by the time you hear it, that time has passed and many new ideas have been formed and the artist is excited to share those with you as well!

These cats come on the stage with smiles and you can tell how fun the music will be. Branford is full of jokes but, usually with Branford, there is much truth to be told between the lines verbally and cognitively. Joey is always swingin’ and just recently more than just on the piano, but of the golf corse as well. His back is a bit tweaked but don’t think for one second that he won’t use that to his advantage as part of your musical experience.

The vibe is loose but the music is tight! Branford looks the same as he did twenty years ago . Faulkner is the new heartbeat and driving a new vehicle. You feel a different energetic presence that supports the foundation of the music on a whole new level.
Bang for your buck! The force be with you. People like to feel that energy on them, brushing up against their garments and invading their privacy. Sometimes the intensity may be uncomfortable, but that is where beautiful blessings of growth come in and spark new ideas and feelings about the music and ourselves!

Branford1I love the way they set the tone because this way, the audience already knows what kind of performance this is going to be. They are not going to politely clap at appropriate times, they are going to be free to feel, hear and experience real music with real emotion, real strength, and real love. The crescendo of the wave, how apropos, that is the feeling of the tides, high and low that cascade over our bodies and quench our thirst for truth in sound. Free to experience the offering that is given and only anticipating the next note not sing title.

The music feeds our conscious and tonight, I feel together with the audience. I usually feel that it is me, them and the music but tonight there is some symbioticism going on!  Soprano and Tenor madness yes, but also fun, humor and groovy swing ! The trio is killin’ it!  Branford winds them up and turns them loose and it’s on to adventurous pathways. Yes they probably play many of the same tunes night after night but, each space is different, each crevice, as they seek out those places to discover new dimensions in the music.


Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 1.48.38 PMJust as we are all locking into the music, some mule, and that is putting in kindly, behind me shouted out during a bass solo, “Let’s hear the saxophone”. Just the vibration we don’t need to try and knock us off out pedestal of bliss. Luckily, Branford and the band did not hear it. The power of the music is too strong. Brother Branford knows that he is not the music, but the music is the sum of its parts that creates the force. He was letting the cats stretch so we could all know collectively how Bad-Ass his band is.

Each cat contributes by providing their own compositions and of course together twisting up classics and familiar Marsalis originals. The Marsalis name is known on a world wide scale. The audience is usually a combination of folks who love the band, folks who love the music, folks who want to associate themselves with the music, folks who come to hear the songs they know by the band, folks who don’t know the music but are open to it, and folks who are only associated with some popularity around a name. So check this out, some folks got up and left after the first few tunes. Well, I bet they came simply because the name ” Marsalis” struck some kind of popular chord with them and they “EXPECTED” to hear what they wanted to hear. One thing that people should know about jazz is that it cannot be controlled! You can’t demand to hear what you want or expect. Yes, you certainly can have expectations but, the music is free and if you are open to it, chances are, you will leave with an enjoyable experience and actually learn something new about the music and yourself!  Now that the audience has been cleansed of all of the impurities, we all are free to share the experience together. If you don’t know the music, that is fine, just come and enjoy, but if you come demanding what you want to hear then you have to go!

They continued the set with two precious compositions drenched with beauty leading to an encore dirge New Orleans style with the “St. James Infirmary”!

I encourage you to go and explore the music of Branford Marsalis. Sometimes it’s not who you know or what you know, it’s just great music!!!!

LeRoy Downs


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