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Branford Marsalis: Requiem

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illustration of Branford Marsalis

The title might have added the parenthetical For Kenny in tribute to the late, great pianist Kenny Kirkland. His presence is key to this music-Branford’s finest to date-and will be sorely missed on both musical and personal levels. Kirkland’s urgent comping and well-spun right-hand lines invigorate the uptempo burners here while his empathetic playing on balladic numbers, like Marsalis’ beautiful “A Thousand Autumns,” speaks softly with uncommon eloquence. Like all great artists, Kirkland ups the ante by his mere presence on the bandstand or in the studio, and Marsalis responds in kind with equal parts passion and grace.

Requiem marks the first time that Marsalis has recorded with a quartet since 1990’s Crazy People Music, which also featured Kirkland on piano and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. Bassist Eric Revis replaces Bob Hurst, who in 1992 left with Branford for The Tonight Show and never looked back. Meanwhile, the elder Marsalis brother is back with a vengeance, pushing the envelope even further from his last Columbia outing, The Dark Keys. Attribute that extra little nudge to Kirkland, the McCoy Tyner of his generation.

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