Branford Marsalis: In My Solitude-Live at Grace Cathedral

When he first began his solo career about 30 years ago (I remember when he was still with his brother in Art Blakey’s band. I’m getting OLD!) Branford Marsalis put out a gorgeous collection of Romances for Saxophone that teamed him with a tasty rhythm and string section. This time around, he’s out there completely unadorned except for the warm acoustics of Grace Cathedral, and he mixes together standards, blues, improvisations and classics as if Joan Sutherland were giving a recital. His large and round sound on the soprano, teamed with his chestnut tenor , breathes out an evening of bel canto sounds.

On moments such as “Who Needs It” and “The Moment I Recall Your Face” Marsalis’ sax sounds almost organ like in its rich dynamics and fullness of sound. His tenor floats like a fluffy cloud on “Stardust,” is buoyant on”Improvisation #3” and moans like a cotton picker on “Blues For One.” Most of the time he plays, Marsalis lets the instrument and breath do most of the labor, with long tones that fill the cathedral on “MAI, Op 7” while he is not adverse to doing some rides on rabbit trails on “Improvisation #2.” Throughout the concert, you feel like you’re experiencing the work of a master at his craft, always in complete control and enjoying every minute of his passion.  In case you didn’t know, the word “grace” means “unmerited favor,” and while God gave Marsalis the gift, this sax player, to use another theological phrase, has appropriated it very well.

Okeh Records

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