Branford’s Best Blowers

Branford Marsalis (Photo by Dorota Koperska Photography via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0)

While Branford Marsalis may have started playing saxophone as a way of trying to attract cute girls while he was playing in an R&B band as a teen (“…it didn’t work…all the cute girls went after the lead singer and guitarist,”) he’s always remained true to his craft. While he continues to be music obsessive, keeping his ears open to different artists regardless of genre, he’s still quick to turn to the masters.

“I’ve learned a lot from them and continue to listen to them. Not as much as I used to, because I listen to other things, but I will always turn back to them,” he said. Here are a trio of incredible musicians the North Carolina resident continues to turn to.

Sidney Bechet

(May 14, 1897 to May 14, 1959)

“He had this lineage to the sound of New Orleans that we never knew. There are other clarinetists that he played like. It’s like when you listen to King Oliver, you realize that Louis Armstrong is King Oliver 2.0. He’s playing a lot of the same ideas that some of the early clarinetists were playing, but he plays it with a prettier and larger sound. And he did it with more emotional appeal and charisma. I learned a lot from him, listening to his records and learning how to approach the soprano [saxophone] and how to play with a certain sound and style.”

Lester Young

(August 27, 1909 to March 15, 1959)

“Lester Young carries this idea of complexity with simplicity. All of my students can play all this Coltrane stuff—not as well as they think they can. But because Coltrane’s playing was linear, it’s approachable. You can put it in a book and make it work. You give a guy like that a Lester Young record, and this is some of the simplest stuff in the world to play, and they can’t play it. Or they can play the notes and I’m like, ‘No son, you’ve got to make it sound a certain way.’ And they can’t make it sound that way. You have to listen to the music to know what I mean. It’s just an incredible way to play an instrument.”

Coleman Hawkins

(November 21, 1904 to May 19, 1969)

“Coleman Hawkins was the precursor to Charlie Parker. He was the first guy to have this certain kind of vertical technique. Charlie Parker took it to the next level. Coleman had this really amazing sound. It was a very strange vibrato.”

Read LIW‘s full interview with Branford Marsalis:

Branford Marsalis: Jazzman For The Masses

Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of theNassau Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), New York Press Association (NYPA) and Fair Media Council (FMC).

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