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Strictly New Orleans, and all that jazz…

6th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Joy is such an essential element of jazz. It is the dynamic that elevates the interaction between musicians – their obvious thrill of communicating – and the listeners being thankful for being in its presence. So when you have Four MFs Playin’ Tunes as on this disc from saxophonist’s Branford Marsalis Quartet, the music rules and the musicians deliver.

The album kicks off with warmth and playfulness on longtime Marsalis associate, pianist Joey Calderazzo’s composition, “The Mighty Sword.” It moves at a fast, be-boppin’ pace, with the pianist seemingly owning the tune. Marsalis jumps in with his horn offering a rather sweet tone while the band with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner, the newest member of the group making his first recording with Marsalis, provides superb support.

BRANFORD MARSALIS

Thelonious Monk fans can dig the staggering rhythmic elements of Revis’ contribution, “Brews,” that are echoed in Monk’s classic, “Teo,” later in the disc. New Orleanians will, perhaps, be curious as to how Marsalis will interpret the locally-referenced tune, “Endymion.” Curiously, it has an almost classical feel at the beginning with Calderazzo displaying a certain refinement. Marsalis musically provides the cacophony of Carnival – its exuberance, its drive – on a solo that celebrates the holiday and life.

For some sheer blowing from Marsalis and to get a further taste of Faulkner’s fluid drums, the saxophonist offers his own “Whiplash.” It stands as another example of his excellent sense of space and the importance of emptiness. Calderazzo takes this one out followed by the earthy tones of Faulkner’s drums.

After the party is over and it’s time to mellow out, sanctuary can be found in a lovely, simple ballad that is “My Ideal.” Branford handles this standard straight-up reminding all of the richness and range of his tenor saxophone. Beauty is beauty.

From an album that began with the need to take a deep breath to keep up with the energy, dynamics and inventiveness of the material, Marsalis bows deeply to the legendary New Orleanian, Sidney Bechet on the bonus track, “Treat It Gentle.” Playing soprano saxophone, Bechet’s horn of choice, Marsalis beautifully recalls his hometown roots and the soprano’s prominent place in music and history that began with Bechet.

IRVIN MAYFIELD

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes doesn’t have a dominant theme that often seems to prevail in many, present-day recordings. It stands, as the title indicates, on its own. Because of its inherent joy, the album moves quickly enabling the music to captivate listeners willing to join the spirit of the moment of creativity.

Love Sessions the Third Time Around

Kermit Ruffins remembers the first time he and fellow-trumpeter Irvin Mayfield went head-to-head. He doesn’t recall the occasion, but the two were in the Superdome when, Ruffins estimates, Mayfield was about 15 years old. Ruffins was still with the ReBirth Brass Band and the group’s hit, “Do Whatcha Wanna,” was ruling the airwaves. According to Ruffins, Mayfield spotted him “foolin’ around on his trumpet,” and came over and the two began trading bars. “Who is this kid?” Ruffins remembers thinking. “We’ve been battling ever since.”

The longtime combat between these mock rivals continues at “Decision 2012” at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse from Saturday, August 18 through Friday, August 24 as part of a 12-night fundraising event dubbed Love Sessions – A Festival of Giving. The proceeds of these shows as well as the Love Moments series featuring the legendary Dee Dee Bridgewater (August 25 – August 29), at Mayfield’s I Club, will benefit a variety of local charitable organizations.

Ruffins, who performed with such warm dignity at Uncle Lionel Batiste’s funeral service, is scheduled to do the first set at the Playhouse with his usual cast of characters including bassist Kevin Morris, keyboardist Zee-2, and alternating in the drum spot with Derrick Freeman and Jerry Anderson. Then Mayfield will take center stage with keyboardist Davell Crawford, drummer Shannon Powell, bassist Peter Harris and trombonist Michael Watts. The last set is when the two trumpeters will go at it.

Those who were in attendance at Cafe Brasil years ago will never forget when Ruffins’ and Mayfields’ bands were pitted against each other for a three-hour foray. In the style of a championship boxing match, each arrived in a limousine – one white, one black – with full attitude on display. As they say, the crowd went wild following each set-to, with the trumpeters and their bands trying to outdo themselves and their opponents during every round. Who won? We did.

For further information and tickets go to jazzplayhouse. frontgate tickets.com or call 888-512-SHOW. For the Love Moments I Club performances got to iclub.frontgatetickets.com or call the number above.

This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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