Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo - Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music, 2011)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Branford Marsalis pares back to a saxophone and piano duet format, joined by longtime colleague Joey Calderazzo for a subtle ballad oriented program. Slow themes abound, but on the two pieces where Marsalis switches to tenor saxophone, the opener "One Way" and "Endymion" his unique muscularity on the bigger horn comes through. I must admit a personal preference for Marsalis on the tenor saxophone, I've loved his sound on the instrument for a long time. That said his soprano playing may be an even more personal statement, as he has over the years developed a pastel, almost painterly tone on the instrument that is particularly poignant on the ballads that make up the lion's share of this recording. One place where he uses the soprano to excellent effect on an up-tempo piece is "Bri's Dance"which is a jaunty and swirling performance of saxophone and piano. Many of the remaining tracks are slow meditations on melody and improvisation from the two instruments. Calderazzo is a true partner in this sense rather then an accompanist, and his impressionistic playing develops the ballads into a melancholy world of emotional depth. Comparisons to the 1+1 album that Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter made a while back were fresh in my mind listening to this, but while that album dealt with musical abstractions, this one was focused on melody and improvisation within the song form. Most of the program has a elegiac sadness or melancholy and malaise that can't quite be shaken despite the talent of the two performers. Songs of Mirth and Melancholy - amazon.com

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