Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, oldest son of New Orleans pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, released an album with his quartet this week. He spoke to weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz about the failings of modern jazz, his hopes for the next generation and leaving New York City to move back to the South.
GUY RAZ: I have to ask you about the title of your new album: Four MFs Playin’ Tunes.
BRANFORD MARSALIS: I have trouble naming albums, so when it gets time for the pressing of the CD, my managers call me and say, “All right, we’re time-sensitive here. We need a title now.” And I usually say something incredibly ridiculous or controversial, and they say, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” And that gives me another week.
We were in that situation again, and that phrase came from a writer who was at the session. He kept pressing me about what the concept of the record was, and I was trying to assure him that the record did not have a concept, which he couldn’t wrap his head around. The general concept of the music is just about four guys on stage playing tunes, and that the tune is more important than individual solo, or any idea of genius or innovation or all these false choices that I hear in the jazz world.
When my manager said we need a title, I kind of threw that out there figuring they’d say, “That’s the dumbest thing. You’re not going to do it.” So when I said it, there was a little beat, and then they said, “That’s great. We’re gonna go with it.” And then it was me saying, “Now wait a second, we might not want to use this.” It was too late; they were off to the races with it…
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