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Jazz exactly as it's meant to be

Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling
Fox Theatre
Tucson, AZ
February 14, 2017
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis Quartet

Review and photos by Frances Sealy

Few families in show business have produced musical genus in the numbers that the Marsalis family from New Orleans has. There is Ellis Marsalis, Sr., Ellis Marsalis, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, and Branford Marsalis. Tucson got a taste of the genuis of Branford Marsalis and it was sumptuous.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet and special guest Kurt Elling have been touring in support of their Grammy nominated album, Upward Spiral. The Fox Theatre was the perfect acoustical environment for the collaboration between the vocalist and all of the talented musicians.

Mr. Marsalis discussed in a recent interview about his decision to select Kurt Elling as the vocalist for this project. "Kurt Elling has the most flexible voice in jazz. His voice makes the song exciting." If you haven't heard of Kurt Elling, it's time you did. Elling demonstrated he could blend clarity and sincerity at the same time in every song he sang. His voice was a multi-dimensional musical instrument and scat machine as well.

The first song in the set was Gershwin's "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" from Porgy and Bess. This is also the opening song on their album. The tone was set by allowing every member of the band to show his brilliance.

Drummer, Justin Faulkner, left his comfort zone throughout the night. He brought jazz drumming to new heights. He knew every note and fit his rhythms perfectly to each song. His performance in "The Return" was astounding. Joey Calderazzo's piano solo on "The Return" was uncompromising as his improvisations added 'air' to the notes. His piano was a fun addition to the performance. Eric Revis on acoustic bass was able to key in on specific aspects of the melodies. He had amazing latitude in his performance.

Branford demonstrated that as an arranger he does not have to change the melody of a song to make it great. He too identifies with the emotional content of a song. Fine examples of that is "Blue Gardenia" and the melancholic "Practical Arrangement." Both Elling and the musicians took the maximum emotional journey for which the songs were written. "The Return" was able to elevate the mood and, as the title suggests, lead the listener into an Upward Spiral.

The encore included one of the most performed songs in jazz circles, "St. James Infirmary Blues." A song that is played so often can lose its luster. Needless to say, Branford and company was able to breathe new life and excitement into the jazz standard.

Kurt Elling is one of the best vocalists on the music scene and the Branford Marsalis Quartet has the hippest musicians in jazz today. Here's hoping we hear more from this jazz marriage!
Set List:
1. There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York
2. Blue Gardenia
3. Só Tinha De Ser Com Você?
4. From One Island to Another
5. Momma Said / Cake and Eat It Too
6. Practical Arrangement
7. The Return (Upward Spiral)

8. I'm a Fool To Want You
9. St. James Infirmary

Related articles:

Jason Marsalis - Concert review - Chicago, IL - March 2011
"Louis" (Wynton Marsalis) - Concert & film review - Chicago, IL - August 2010
Branford Marsalis - Concert review - Chicago, IL - April 2009
Wynton Marsalis - Concert review - Chicago, IL - February 2009
Wynton Marsalis Live with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus -
Concert review - Chicago, IL - Jannuary 2007

The Wynton Marsalis Quartet - Concert review - Crystal Lake, IL - April 2004
Wynton Marsalis - Christmas Jazz Jam - Album review
Wynton Marsalis - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary - Album review

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Branford Marsalis Quartet
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling

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