Reviews by J Hunter
Five amazing discs that made my annual trek up the East Coast even better than it usually is:
BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes
“Nothing to see here; everything’s under control.” That’s the underlying message of the title to the first Branford Marsalis Quartet disc without longtime drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. That’s a big loss to the bottomless musical hive-mind that is the BMQ, but between their rip-snorting Proctors show in February and the cockeyed bop that drives MFs whirling opener “The Mighty Sword,” it sounds like 20-year old wunderkind Jason Faulkner has been assimilated just fine, thank you very much. He bubbles and bashes and bangs, while volcanic pianist Joey Calderazzo shows he’s light-years from the time when he was “that new guy” who replaced the late Kenny Kirkland. Faulkner certainly hasn’t put a hurt on Branford, whose soprano sax is just as achingly beautiful on bassist Eric Revis’ composition “Maestra” as it is on Calderazzo’s “As Summer Into Autumn Slips”; on the right-brain side of the scale, Marsalis’ fulsome tenor sax gives us all a very cool ride on dynamic send-ups of Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and Chet Baker’s “My Ideal.” It’s ridiculous to compare Faulkner to Watts, anyway, because that’s like comparing Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning. Like Luck, Faulkner’s got a major-league skill-set, as we can see during the opening and close of Branford’s own muscular tune “Whiplash.” As with Luck, the proof will be in what lessons Faulkner learns in these next few years, and how he applies them to whatever Marsalis throws at him. Until then, everything’s definitely under control, and sounds pretty freaking awesome, to boot!
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