Whatever happened to style, elegance or that subtle sophistication that let you know what you were listening to was almost as stylish as the person creating the music? I'm just not feeling this one.
Let's face it, Royal Garden Blues is gone and not coming back and what we have now is a saxophone player that has quietly dropped back into the middle of an incredibly crowded pack. While one can admire the spontaneity of an all most live in the studio, grip it and rip attitude the release does keep up with the times but does little else. Jeff "Tain" Watts left the Marsalis band and should have years ago. Watts is in the top 5 drummers rolling today. Marsalis is average on tenor by comparison.
There is the Caribbean type influence of "The Mighty Sword" which is a solid more modern hard bop tune that brings back fond memories. The more self indulgent "Maestra" seems to be where Marsalis is heading as he has been quoted stating he started his label with the intent of being able to create and play what he wants. Careful what you wish for. "Endymion" seems to be a disjointed harmonic excursion into the outer reaches with no real sense of purpose. While Marsalis does a fine if not humorous job at times in acknowledging jazz history it would seem to be done on his terms alone. Of course no Marsalis record would be complete without the expected nod to New Orleans, yes Branford - we get it. On the seventh day God did not rest he created New Orleans. That shtick is getting tired too. With tenor players such as Wayne Escoffery, Noah Preminger, Bob Mintzer, Mark Turner and young minimalist JD Allen dropping or playing on consistently superior product it may be time for Marsalis to go back to basics.
While I am still playing the last Marsalis release with Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy this release will have a swift shelf life for me. There is no doubt Branford Marsalis is a supreme talent but when the pack has long since caught up and in some cases passed you then self indulgent attempts laced with attitude and an occasional well placed arrogance are not going to allow you to play catch up any time soon. At times the band and especially the rhythm section of Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums outshine the leader...Joey Calderazzo on occasion can make you forget whose release this really is.
If you like Marsalis you will like this...If you prefer to go outside the box then keep looking. A bad record? No. A disappointing record? Yes.
Track Listing: The Mighty Sword; Brews; Maestra; Teo; Whiplash; As Summer Into Autumn Slips; Endymion; My Ideal; Treat It Gentle.
Personnel: Branford Marsalis: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Joey Calderazzo: piano; Eric Revis: bass; Justin Faulkner: drums.