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Wynton Marsalis: He and She

It may be hard to recall by now, but there was a time when the musical fates and tastes of the primary Marsalis brothers-Wynton and Branford-were more closely aligned. A quarter century ago, young lion Wynton’s post-Miles Davis Quintet-style band featured Branford and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts (a longtime member/soulmate of Branford’s ongoing quartet), producing a muscular and luminous sound worth knowing and loving, especially at a time when jazz was in dire need of a reawakening.

All these years later, the siblings have long since gone in distinctly separate artistic directions, a state of things clearly delineated by comparing their respective recent projects. Both are small-group settings, but while Wynton goes deep into jazz historicist models and courts conceptualism on He and She, Metamorphosen finds Branford and his dazzling, taut and time-honed band-with Watts, pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis-simply doing what they do, in more of a post-Coltrane quartet manner, putting forth what may be this band’s finest outing to date. At the risk of simplifying, Wynton’s latest is more about thought-out gestures and compositional thinking, Branford’s more about acting, about the heat of play and interplay.

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