JAZZ SAXOPHONIST Branford Marsalis 370.
(photo credit: Edie Rush)
Branford Marsalis may have noted it was devilishly hot at the start of his
quartet’s first gig at last week’s Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, but he did
absolutely nothing to moderate the furnace-like conditions. He and his cohorts –
pianist Joey Calderazzo, bass player Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner –
poured out tons of white-hot energy and blistering, silky skills right from the
In a pre-festival interview, 52-year-old saxophonist Marsalis
had talked about intensity as his byword, and that was the key to the group’s
success. The foursome played material from its latest album, Four MFs Playin’
Tunes, as well as the odd standard, and there was ne’er a dull moment in the
entire 80+ minute set.
A prime example was Revis’s seemingly never ending
ostinato – repetitive phrase – on one of the numbers. The order and volume of
the bass notes never changed, but the intensity of the sound appeared to ebb and
flow as the rest the band members did their thing.
Marsalis is such a
master musician that he can keep his audience riveted with even the softest of
sonic outputs. His velvety lyrical work on soprano sax – his favored instrument
– was a wonder to behold, and even his somewhat more visceral playing on tenor
saxophone owed more to deftness and understated intent than to raw
That “softly, softly” approach was underscored when festival joint
artistic director and saxophonist Eli Degibri joined the fray for the encore.
While 35-year-old Degibri pumped out the energy calories – to impressive effect
– Marsalis got his message across, in no uncertain terms, in a far more lyrical
Calderazzo produced an abundance of dazzling riffs, while
22-year-old Faulkner maintained the highest level of requisite intensity
throughout, even on brushes and when tickling the sides of his cymbals with the
sides of his drumsticks.
Faulkner is definitely one to
Elsewhere on the festival roster, drummer Jeff Ballard’s trio,
with Miguel Zenon on sax and Kevin Hays on piano, produced an energized display,
with Zenon complementing the band leader’s no-nonsense percussive attack. One
the extramural, non-jazz side of the program, Esther Rada had her jam-packed
audience grooving with gay abandon with her charismatic performance, while the
young, progressive, rock-oriented Tatran trio also came in for a well-earned
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