Branford Marsalis jazzes up parents weekend

Review: Marsalis' classic quartet played jazz, swing and bebop to a full house on Sunday.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet brought the swanky vibes of good old-fashioned Harlem jazz clubs to nearly 1,500 Syracuse University parents and students in the Schine Student Center on Sunday.

The Quartet set the tone of their performance with a track composed the night before the show. The four musicians had been jamming on the hotel piano, then grabbed a taxi to campus and sneaked into one of the music practice rooms. There, they developed a track composed by pianist Joey Calderazzo.

Photo: Hallie Geller
Grammy-winner Branford Marsalis filled Goldstein Auditorium with the sounds of jazz Sunday afternoon during SU's family weekend.

The forceful, fast-paced track was reminiscent of revival swing group Royal Crown Revue’s "Hey, Pachuco.” It featured a cavalcade of sounds, which sometimes meshed with and occasionally contradicted the beat that drummer Justin Faulkner and bassist Eric Revis maintained diligently throughout the seven-track performance.

At times during the nearly two-hour jazz jam, the pianist and sax player played impromptu themes from previous melodies. Other times, the two musicians played the same fragment repeatedly, faster and with increasing force, in a full-throttle race toward an extended, four-minute drum solo that served as the climatic ending to the fourth track of the set.

Marsalis began each track on the saxophone, then Calderazzo took the lead on the piano. The piano, bass and drums exhibited an amalgam of classic jazz. But just when you thought the Quartet’s performance couldn’t get better, Marsalis brought the bepop into the songs as he returned to the forefront of the stage. Depending on what the track called for, he picked up his saxophone or trumpet and interpreted the themes with passion and steadfast forcefulness on the sax, to the delight of the audience.

A proficient and talented piano player, Calderazzo's musical talent must have surely convinced the audience that he was born to play jazz, blues, swing and classical music over the course of the two-hour performance. He used his entire body to play the piano: His fingers ran over the keyboard at an incredible speed, while his feet kept rhythm by stomping the floor and his torso grooved to the music. Marsalis and Calderazzo passed the lead back and forth so seamlessly that you almost didn’t notice the transition in the storm of sounds, and piano and saxophone became one.

At times, the rhythm of certain sections of the tracks picked up at an unnecessarily fast pace, set by young drummer Justin Faulkner, a sophomore at the Berklee College of Music.

“We got a little carried away, sorry about that,” Marsalis said. “It wasn’t supposed to be that fast … He did it, the young person, they always do. It’s always the kids who do it.”  

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