Branford Marsalis Quartet + Kurt Elling – Four Big Nights @ Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, New Orleans
It is difficult to believe that the last time saxophonist Branford Marsalis headlined at Snug Harbor, New Orleans most prestigious modern jazz mecca, was circa 1984. At that time, Marsalis, who appears at the club for a unprecedented four-night stand (December 10 through December 13), co-led a group that was put together by the late Earl Turbinton and included the legendary “Big” Nick Nicholas. Dubbed “Three Generations of Jazz Saxophone,” Turbinton's aim, it is said, was to illustrate how influences shape the jazz world. Nicholas' blowing (he's the guy taking the sax solo on Dizzy Gillespie's “Manteca”) affected Turbinton and thus the heritage was passed on to Marsalis.
Of course, Marsalis, a New Orleans native now residing in North Carolina, has stood on stage at the Frenchmen Street club since then but only to sit in most often with his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. For these dates, the three-time, Grammy-winning saxophonist is bringing in his entire, highly-regarded Branford Marsalis Quartet with longtime pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. The world-renowned vocalist Kurt Elling will join the group as a special guest. Elling, a Chicago native who also claims multiple awards, is truly a dynamic jazz singer and noted for his unique vocalese and scatting. The musicians are all coming to New Orleans to record an album.
Considering that in 2009 Elling released an album dedicated to the teaming of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane and vocalist Billy Hartman and the resulting classic album, his appreciation of the matching of sax and voice should make his performance with Marsalis an especially good one. This will mark the first time for the two musicians to enter a studio together and it also represents a rare occasion that Marsalis has utilized a vocalist. Incidentally, on Elling's first album, 1995′s Close Your Eyes on Blue Note, he featured two saxophonists, the great Von Freeman and Chicago native, now New Orleans resident Ed Petersen who is a professor at the University of New Orleans.
Marsalis, one of the most highly regarded jazz saxophonists of his era, recently released The Branford Marsalis Quartet Performs Coltrane's A Love Supreme Live in Amsterdam in honor of the 30th anniversary of saxophonist John Coltrane's masterpiece. Marsalis is also an accomplished classical musician and continues to perform and record in the genre.
The arrival of the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Kurt Elling at Snug Harbor's intimate music room is cause for celebration. Showtimes are 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.