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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Marsalis Music 0874946001809



1. The Mighty Sword
2. Brews
3. Maestra
4. Teo
5. Whiplash
6. As Summer into Autumn Slips
7. Endymion
8. My Ideal
9. Treat it Gentle

Branford Marsalis - Soprano sax, tenor sax
Joey Calderazzo - Piano
Eric Revis - Bass
Justin Faulkner - Drums


The Marsalis family always gives the impression of being very respectable, so the title of Branford Marsalis's new album comes as a bit of a surprise. If you don't know what "MFs" means, you'll have to consult a slang dictionary, but it's not exactly a polite term. Probably it is best translated as "four musical fellows".

In a recent interview, Branford stressed the importance of melody in jazz but I didn't come away from this album humming any of the tunes (except for My Ideal, which is a jazz standard). Instead, the music seems to be a mixture of stimulating up-tempo numbers or emotive ballads. This actually works well, as it gives the album contrast.

The stimulation of the fast numbers is assisted very much by new drummer Julian Faulkner, who replaces the quartet's former percussionist Jeff "Tain" Watts. On the fast numbers, Julian keeps up an almost continuous barrage of drumming, with emphasis on the tomtoms and bass drum. This is clear right from the opening The Mighty Sword, where the forceful drums back up gyrating solos from pianist Joey Calderazzo and Branford Marsalis (playing soprano sax). Brews has a Monkish edginess, but Maestra is a slow meditative ballad.

Thelonious Monk's Teo returns us to power playing, with the drums heavily punctuating Branford's tenor sax. Whiplash is similarly energetic, with more thrusting tenor from Marsalis, competing with Faulkner's drums, which eventually triumph in an assertive solo. The mood changes again for As Summer into Autumn Slips, a pastoral piece with pensive playing from Marsalis and Calderazzo.

Endymion is a tune that twists and turns. Faulkner's busy drums almost submerge Calderazzo's piano solo, and Branford's serpentine tenor approaches Coltrane-like spinning. As I suggested above, My Ideal has a pleasing melody which provides good improvising ground for Branford's tenor sax and Joey's sensitive piano.

The final track, Treat It Gentle, is listed on the sleeve as a "bonus track", which is a meaningless description that could be applied to any track on the album. It is apparently a tribute to Sidney Bechet, played appreciatively by Marsalis. It ends an interestingly varied album.

I picked up the personnel from various sources, as the sleeve-note doesn't list them.

Tony Augarde

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