Upward Spiral
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Upward Spiral

Branford Marsalis Quartet Feat Kurt Elling

It is no secret that the Branford Marsalis Quartet can be as freewheeling off the bandstand as in performance. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and his Quartet made up of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner are each bold personalities with strong opinions, equally intense in both musical and verbal exchanges.


“The band talks about all kinds of things, many of which are unprintable,” Marsalis admits. “But we have serious musical debates as well.” One of these exchanges led to Upward Spiral, the new album from the Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling.

“One topic we got into was picking the best singer to work with our band,” Marsalis recalls. “My candidate was Kurt Elling, because he has the most flexible voice around, is always in tune and is a true jazz musician. When I met Kurt two years ago at a Thelonious Monk Institute competition, we had a conversation at the bar about doing a record together.”

“I had bumped into Branford on the road a handful of times, and we always had significant conversations,” Elling adds. “So when he mentioned making a record, I said ‘any time!’”

What has emerged, after an intense week of performance and recording in New Orleans, is a collection that blends Songbook staples, jazz standards, and standards-to-be from a diverse array of composers.

Choosing songs became a process in which all five musicians had input. “Everyone in the band is always listening to all kinds of music,” Marsalis emphasizes, “so it’s not as if we had to go out and do research on vocal records.

Every track on Upward Spiral confirms the beyond-category strengths of both the Quartet and Elling. "No one in the band had to make adjustments, because good musicians can play many styles of music,” Marsalis notes. “We’re fully engaged with one another when we’re playing, so it was easy to engage with Kurt. The only adjustment was not to play long solos, but if making the music sound good means playing less, you play less.”

For Marsalis, Upward Spiral is consistent with all of his previous music. “My philosophy of jazz is that it should be about strong melodies and a great beat, and every song here has a melody that you can hold in your mind, that you can sing. This is not jazz as a personal think tank, where people are only concerned with impressing everyone already inside of the tank with deconstruction and reharmonization. This is the kind of music that should expand our base to include people who would like jazz if it were friendlier. From the minute Kurt started performing with us, it was all good.”

Track listing:

  1. There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin' Soon for New York
  2. Blue Gardenia
  3. From One Island to Another
  4. Practical Arrangement
  5. Doxy
  6. I’m a Fool to Want You
  7. West Virginia Rose
  8. Só Tinha de Ser Com Você
  9. Momma Said
  10. Cassandra Song
  11. Blue Velvet
  12. The Return (Upward Spiral)

 

 

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