Saintly Pix

We usually photograph our cover subjects in New York City because that's where the musicians live, but Branford Marsalis is a resident of Durham, N.C. Since JazzTimes is based near Washington, D.C., and Marsalis was playing a four-night engagement at Blues Alley, we decided to link up with the saxophonist while he was in town.

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Richard Mallory Allnutt

Branford Marsalis

A charmingly chatty man, Marsalis joked and trash-talked with the photographer and me throughout the shoot, but at one point it was obvious that he'd had just about all the photographing he could stand. He had already posed for photos in Christ Church Georgetown and on a Wisconsin Avenue bridge overlooking the C&O Canal, so by the time we got to the fancy furniture store Poltrona Frau, he was ready to bolt (and we still had two more locations to go).

As shutterbug Richard Allnutt set up for some shots where he'd photograph Marsalis through the store window, the saxophonist and I stood there waiting-and waiting isn't something any musician likes to do.

Sensing Marsalis' antsyness, I busted out the secret weapon I packed just in case things started to drag: a collection of late 1970s New Orleans Saints football cards. Chuck Muncie. Archie Manning. Tony Galbreath.

Marsalis' face lit up. "Oh, man!"

Anybody who's followed Marsalis knows that he's a diehard Saints fan-not an easy thing when you consider the franchise's historic futility (as a Detroit Lions fan, I don't say that without sympathy).

As he flipped through the stack of cards, Marsalis commented on the players ("We actually had two good running backs this year") and seemed genuinely surprised.

"You were waiting for just the right time to pull these out, weren't you?" he asked, shaking his head.

"Yep," I said.

"Good timing," he smiled and continued shuffling the deck.

Originally published in November 2004

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