LARGO — National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, renowned Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, and Tony Award nominee Branford Marsalis will take the stage Saturday, Jan. 18, 8 p.m., at Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.
Tickets for an evening with the Branford Marsalis Quartet range from $54.50 to $69.50 plus service fee. Visit LargoArts.com or call 727-587-6793.
The eldest of the famed Marsalis brothers, Branford gained critical acclaim through his work with jazz giants Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Sonny Rollins before becoming a household name as musical director for “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno” in the early 1990s. Branford and his jazz quartet have long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind are measured.
According to a biography provided by Music Works International, after four decades in the international spotlight, the achievements of saxophonist Branford Marsalis continue to grow. From his initial recognition as a young jazz lion, he has expanded his vision as an instrumentalist, composer, bandleader and educator, crossing stylistic boundaries while maintaining an unwavering creative integrity. In the process, he has become an avatar of contemporary artistic excellence.
Founded in 1986, the Branford Marsalis Quartet continues to be Branford’s primary means of artistic expression. Over the course of more than three decades, the quartet has forged an unparalleled stylistic range and distinctive continuity of personnel. “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul,” the quartet’s 2019 album, contains a mix of challenging original and classic compositions that has defined the group. With its focus on melodic strength and extrasensory interaction, the album confirms that the Branford Marsalis Quartet remains a paragon of uncompromising jazz excellence.
While the quartet thrives, Branford continues to expand his status as a musical collaborator that dates back to his early experiences as a sideman with Clark Terry, Art Blakey and his brother Wynton Marsalis and extends through encounters with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Harry Connick Jr. He is still as eager as ever to join in musical ventures with artists in other musical realms. His relationship with Sting, which began with the pop icon’s first solo album “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” in 1985, was resumed when Branford contributed solos to Sting’s collaboration with reggae star Shaggy, “44/876.” Branford appeared as a guest artist with the Grateful Dead way back in 1990. That collaboration led to the spinoff band Dead and Co. tapping him to perform as a guest artist at an August 2018 concert in Virginia.
Branford’s contributions to the Broadway stage expanded in 2018 when he scored acclaimed director Kenny Leon’s revival of “Children of a Lesser God.” His previous efforts included music for the revival of “Fences,” which garnered him a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination, “The Mountaintop” starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson, and the revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”
All of these achievements have been supplemented by Branford’s efforts beyond the realms of performance and composition. After directing Columbia Record’s jazz program, he founded the Marsalis Music label in 2002. He has held workshops on campuses around the world, while establishing extended teaching relationships with Michigan State, San Francisco State and North Carolina Central Universities.
Branford continues to spread the message of his music around the world, including Russia, where he appeared in St. Petersburg’s host-city celebration of International Jazz Day 2018, and China, where he headlined Shanghai’s JZ Jazz Festival the following September. Regardless of context or location, Branford remains steadfast in his quest for musical excellence.