Sunday, October 22, 2006

Branford Marsalis - Braggtown (Marsalis Music, 2006)

This album is really the tale of two Branfords, the first being the tenor saxophone wielding scrapper fighting his way through bruising workouts that sound like Crescent era John Coltrane, chased by Elvin Jones own doppelganger, Jeff "Tain" Watts. The other Branford is the romantic poet using his soprano saxophone at crawling tempos to create lush patient improvisations. Besides Marsalis and Watts, Joey Calderazzo plays piano and Eric Revis plays bass. The burning tenor songs make the biggest impact on me, they are the easiest to understand as they are firmly rooted in the past and paovide the frame of reference in the music that John Coltrane had pioneered in the mid-1960's.

"Jack Baker" leads off the album and along with the Watts feature "Blakzilla" and "Black Elk Speaks" the music is very exciting and very much in the post bop tenor saxophone tradition. Often, Calderazzo and Revis become superfluous to the music, and Marsails and Watts break away and interact much like Coltrane and Jones at their most intense. The soprano saxophone features, "Hope," "Fate" and "O Solitude" are much more difficult for me to understand, as the music is taken at a very slow pace and requires a lot of patience to listen to and understand. Marsalis also has a very limpid tone on the soprano, which although quite individual and unique, is not something that reaches out and grabs your attention. So in the end, there is an interesting album which runs the gamut from very fast to very slow, becoming the tortoise and the hare simultaneously.

Send comments to: Tim