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Branford Marsalis Quartet: Contemporary Jazz

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On Contemporary Jazz, Branford Marsalis shows clear evidence that he’s far from satisfied in his quest for excellence on his horns and with his composer’s pen. Writing with an exceptional sense of rhythm in particular, Marsalis churns out an eight-chapter gem with this outing. Though he’s become a real contender on the soprano saxophone, Contemporary Jazz is a straight, tenorsax quartet date. Marsalis regales in his quartet’s company, which has become a real band now that pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been fully indoctrinated in the keen communication between Marsalis and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. That communication is now a four-way roundtable, making this band one of the most impressive working today.

The lone standard, “Cheek to Cheek,” opens with its melody implied and closes as a giddy mambo. Ever the trickster, Marsalis ends the CD with a hidden track, “Sleepy Hollow,” a blues that would do Ben Webster proud. But from the rollicking opener, “In the Crease,” to the lovely tone poem “Requiem” that follows, and from Tain’s clap-happy, Mississippi-muddy “Countronious Rex” to the outer edges the band exhaustively explores on “Elysium,” Contemporary Jazz is a complete package.

Originally Published