Songs of Mirth and Melancholy: Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo

June 26, 2011 

  • Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo

Durham resident Branford Marsalis is clearly enraptured by his soprano saxophone tone. And why not?

On pianist Joey Calderazzo's "La Valse Kendall," the third tune on their "Songs of Mirth and Melancholy," it's as if Marsalis has resurrected Sidney Bechet, the early New Orleans soprano saxophonist and clarinetist known for his lavishly expressive, flowery playing. The piece sounds classical, as do several others (Brahms' "Die Trauernde" is included). But this should not deter jazz fans from digging this album, especially its generous melodicism and tonal bliss (which also applies to Marsalis' tenor saxophone and Calderazzo's piano).

The album starts in a jazz vein with Calderazzo's "One Way," the pianist striding and boogie-woogie-ing up and down the keyboard with Marsalis (on tenor) stabbing at a three-note motif and later developing a grand cohesive statement. Marsalis' "Endymion" offers more of his energized tenor as he spins his phrases faster and faster. In the meantime, Calderazzo weaves dazzling two-handed counterpoint. Calderazzo's "Bri's Dance" is the other overt jazz performance in the set.

The duo's version of Wayne Shorter's "Face on the Barroom Floor" is as expressive as the song title, and the album includes melancholy originals more in a classical style by Marsalis or Calderazzo.

Rafi Zabor's liner notes (which direct you to www.marsalis music.com for his complete and extensive notes) stress the duo's interest in melody. The combination of melody and tone heard throughout this album is a winner, regardless of musical genre.

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