Three-time Grammy Award®-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis and leading jazz pianist Joey Calderazzo will perform music from their recent CD collaboration, “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy,” Thursday, Feb. 14, at the Thomasville Center for the Arts Auditorium.
The concert is presented by the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation, now celebrating its 75th anniversary.
As the musical director of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” from 1992 to 1995, Marsalis became known to a wide audience. Today he’s considered one of the jazz world's most revered artists, continually expanding his skills and influence as an instrumentalist, composer and the head of Marsalis Music, the label he founded in 2002.
In 2011 the National Endowment for the Arts conferred the prestigious Jazz Masters Fellowship on the Marsalis family of composer-musicians to recognize their indelible mark on this American art form. The New York Times called Ellis Marsalis and his four sons, including Branford, “jazz’s most storied living dynasty.”
Still, Branford Marsalis has forged a unique identity within the family, born of an insatiable appetite for musical innovation and unexpected collaborations.
Leader of one of the finest jazz quartets today, Marsalis “moonlights” as a guest soloist with the Boston Pops and with classical ensembles, including such acclaimed orchestras as the Chicago, Detroit, Düsseldorf and North Carolina Symphonies.
His solo performances with the New York Philharmonic during its 2010-11 season demonstrated his versatility and prowess. Reviewers took note of the poise, supple tone and “swagger” that Marsalis lent to the ensemble.
Marsalis’s compositions for the Broadway musical revival of “Fences” earned him a Tony Award® nomination for Best Original Score Written for the Theatre and a 2010 Drama Desk Award® for Outstanding Music in a Play. Following this success, Marsalis signed on to score the 2011 Broadway premiere of “The Mountaintop” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.
He has even dabbled in acting with roles in “Throw Mama from the Train” and “School Daze.”
Not only has Marsalis performed alongside the great names in jazz—Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins—his expansive interests led to collaborations with diverse artists such as Sting, the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby.
Passionate about music education, Marsalis hosted National Public Radio’s syndicated program “Jazz Set.” His quartet participated in an innovative extended residency at North Carolina Central University and through an effort called “Marsalis Jams,” the artist brings jazz education to campuses across the eastern U.S. and Southwest regions.
As leader of The Branford Marsalis Quartet, the Jazz Master explores the limits of musical adventure. Their latest release, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes,’ was named iTunes’ Best Instrumental Jazz Album of 2012.
Marsalis brought Joey Calderazzo into the quartet in 1998 to replace the deceased Kenny Kirkland, but the two weren’t strangers. A New York native also born into a musical family, Calderazzo was a star on the rise, having toured with the Michael Brecker Quintet beginning in 1987.
“Michael put me on the map,” Calderazzo acknowledges. “There was no philosophy, no metaphysics behind playing…. It was just life.” Brecker produced Calderazzo’s first CD, “In the Door,” and performed on it along with another tenor sax player named Branford Marsalis.
Calderazzo continued to build his reputation as a fearless and commanding leader of the new jazz generation throughout the 1990s, touching base with Marsalis again on “To Know One” (Blue Note, 1991) and as a keyboardist on Marsalis’s Buckshot LeFonque tour, contributing to its disc, “Music Evolution.”
Calderazzo’s signing with the Marsalis Music label in 2002 coincided with a creative growth spurt in the pianist’s career. “Now I realize that the perfect technical take is not always the perfect musical take,” he said. His first solo disc, “Haiku,” was recorded that year, and a solo tour of Europe followed in 2006.
His influences include past giants such as Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Jelly Roll Morton. At the same time, Calderazzo continues to challenge himself through difficult musical situations, including the duo project with Marsalis. Their album, “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy,” includes original compositions from both artists, a tune by Wayne Shorter and a nod to Brahms in a musical journey described as “full of virtuosity and joy.”
Tickets for this performance are quite limited. For more information, please call the TEF office at 229-226-7404 or visit the website at www.TEFconcerts.com.
Other concerts in this series are swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on March 7, pianist Olga Kern on April 2, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on April 16.
TEF is a volunteer-led, non-profit organization founded in 1937. Its annual concert series features internationally celebrated artists and ensembles in the fields of opera, theater, dance, classical music, jazz and other forms of entertainment. Additionally, TEF provides scholarships for outstanding young musicians, educational outreach programs, and student tickets.