On Top Of The World

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

What do you do if you are a member of a famous musical family, have won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for several others, play with some of the. most famous names in music and have a string of hit CDs to your name?

If you’re Branford Marsalis, you start your own record label, that’s what.

A jazz saxophonist, Marsalis, 42, recently launched Marsalis Music and currently is touring to promote his latest release, “Footsteps of Our Fathers” on the same label. Asked why he has chosen this venture, he said: “I’ve been Very lucky to have the time and opportunity to really explore the music and deal with it. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer places to do that.” He hopes that Marsalis Music will give a similar opportunity to young musicians today.

Marsalis was born in New Orleans, into one of the city’s most famous musical families. His father, Ellis Marsalis Jr. is director of jazz studies at the University of New Orleans and is regarded as the city’s premier jazz pianist. Three of his brothers, trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason, also are musicians in their own right.

Marsalis’ own jazz career began in 1984 when he released his first albmn for Columbia jazz, “Scenes In The City”. This got him noticed not ‘only in jazz circles but also in the World of pop, and he ended up recording and performing with many major artists in the field, including Sting and the Grateful Dead.

By the 1990s, he was being nominated for, and winning, Grammys in both jazz (for l993’s “I Heard You Twice the First Time”) and pop (for 1994’s “Barcelona Mona” with Bruce Hornsby) categories.

Not content with that, he also recorded two classical albums and broke new musical ground by fusing jazz with hip-hop under the pseudonym Buckshot LeFonque.

As a producer, Marsalis has worked with Latin Grammy nominee David Sanchez, among others, and he has participated in film scores as an instrumentalist as well as composer and arranger.

In addition, he has hosted a nationally syndicated radio show and was at one time a member of “The Tonight Show” house band.

Also a keen teacher, Marsalis recently assumed a part-time appointment in San Francisco University’s music department, where he hopes to make jazz accessible to a younger audience.

Marsalis plays this coming Monday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. The other three members of his quartet, pianist Ioey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, will join him on stage for two shows, one at 7 p.m. and the other at 9.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, September 26, 2002

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