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Branford Marsalis

Background information
Birth name Branford Marsalis
Born August 26, 1960 (1960-08-26) (age 49)
Origin Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Instruments Saxophone
Associated acts Wynton Marsalis
Delfeayo Marsalis
Jason Marsalis
Ellis Marsalis
Joey Calderazzo
Eric Revis
Jeff "Tain" Watts
Kenny Kirkland
DJ Premier, Sting, The Tonight Show Band, Kevin Eubanks
Anna Maria Jopek

Branford Marsalis (born August 26, 1960), is an American saxophonist, composer and bandleader. While primarily known for his work in jazz as the leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, he also performs frequently as a soloist with classical ensembles and has led the group Buckshot LeFonque.



Marsalis was born in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. His brothers Jason Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, and Delfeayo Marsalis, and father Ellis Marsalis, Jr. are also jazz musicians.

In the summer of 1980, while still a Berklee College of Music student, Marsalis toured Europe playing alto and baritone saxophone in a large ensemble led by drummer Art Blakey. Other big band experience with Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry followed over the next year, and by the end of 1981 Marsalis, on alto saxophone, had joined his brother Wynton in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Other performances with his brother, including a 1981 Japanese tour with Herbie Hancock, led to the formation of his brother Wynton’s first quintet, where Marsalis shifted his emphasis to soprano and tenor saxophones. He continued to work with Wynton until 1985, a period that also saw the release of his own first recording, Scenes in the City, as well as guest appearances with other artists including Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

While Marsalis would release a second Buckshot LeFonque recording in 1997, his primary focus since 1996 has been on his own quartet, classical performance and education. With original member Watts still on drums, bassist Eric Revis replaced Hurst in 1997, while pianist Joey Calderazzo became a member after Kirkland’s death the following year. The Branford Marsalis Quartet has toured and recorded extensively, receiving a Grammy in 2001 for its album Contemporary Jazz. After a two-decade association with Columbia Records, where he served as Creative Consultant and producer for jazz recordings between 1997 and 2001, Marsalis founded his own Marsalis Music label in 2002. With Marsalis as the label’s primary producer, Marsalis Music has issued audio and video discs that feature Marsalis’ quartet, the instrumental music of Harry Connick, Jr., new artists Miguel Zenón and Doug Wamble, and (under the Honors Series logo) veterans Alvin Batiste, Michael Carvin, Jimmy Cobb and Bob French. Claudia Acuña has also been signed by the label, with a disc forthcoming.

Marsalis placed greater emphasis on classical music since the 2001 release of his album Creation. Performances with symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles worldwide have become a significant part of his itinerary, with his most intense period of classical playing scheduled for October and November 2008, when Marsalis tours the United States with Philarmonia Brasileira.

Marsalis has also become involved in education at the university level, with appointments at Michigan State (1996-2000), San Francisco State (2000-2002) and North Carolina Central University (2005-present). After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. created the concept of a Musicians’ Village in the city’s Upper Ninth Ward, with the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music as the Village’s centerpiece. This project, undertaken by New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity with Marsalis’ and Connick’s active participation, has proven to be one of the most successful recovery efforts in the region, and has already provided dozens of musicians of modest means with the opportunity to own decent, affordable housing.

Other appearances

  • Featured as saxophonist on "Fight the Power" (1989) by Public Enemy.[1]
  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Guest on the "Not my Job" section of the show. On this performance he claimed the saxophone was the sexiest instrument, then insults the accordion. In a later episode of the show, "Weird Al" Yankovic stands up for the accordion; later guest Yo-Yo Ma claimed the saxophone was in fact the sexiest.
  • Interviewed on Space Ghost Coast to Coast November 11, 1994 Episode 11: "Gum Disease". Although the Coast to Coast crew said, "He was the most pleasant, and well mannered guest we had ever interviewed." He didn't sign a release for merchandising rights, so the episode couldn't be on the Space Ghost Coast to Coast Volume One DVD.
  • Marsalis was featured in Shanice's 1992 hit "I Love Your Smile". In the second half of the song, he has a solo and Shanice says "Blow, Branford, Blow."
  • He played the role of Lester in the movie Throw Momma from the Train (1987) and the role of Jordam in Spike Lee's 1988 musical-drama film School Daze.
  • Cameo as a repair man who asks Hillary on a date in the episode "Stop Will! In the Name of Love" on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1994).
  • Interviews with Marsalis are featured prominently in the documentary Before the Music Dies (2006).
  • From 1992 - 1995 Branford was the leader of the Tonight Show Band, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Initially he declined the offer but later reconsidered and accepted the position. He was succeeded as band leader by guitarist Kevin Eubanks.
  • Branford was a guest judge on the final episode of Top Chef (Season 5) which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • On April 28 and 29, 2009 Branford played with The Dead (The remaining members of the Grateful Dead)at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, rekindling a relationship started when he performed with them at a legendary set at Nassau Coliseum March 29, 1990 during which, according to Dead aficionados, one of the greatest renditions of "Dark Star" (song), was performed.



As leader

  • 2009 Metamorphosen
  • 2006 Braggtown
  • 2004 A Love Supreme Live - (DVD/CD)
  • 2004 Eternal
  • 2003 Romare Bearden Revealed - CD Issued in Conjunction with The Art of Romare Bearden (American painter)
  • 2002 Footsteps of our Fathers - Branford again revisits the works of past masters, interpreting the tunes from his own angle
  • 2001 Creation - some classical music rearranged for saxophone and orchestra
  • 2000 Contemporary Jazz - Grammy Winner in category Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
  • 1999 Requiem - recorded days before the death of and dedicated to pianist Kenny Kirkland
  • 1997 Music Evolution - the second Buckshot LeFonque project
  • 1996 The Dark Keys
  • 1996 Loved Ones - a duet with his father Ellis Marsalis (piano)
  • 1994 Buckshot LeFonque
  • 1993 Bloomington - live recording
  • 1992 Sneakers - soundtrack to the movie
  • 1992 I Heard You Twice The First Time - Branford's quartet pairs up with some Jazz and Blues greats (including B.B.King, John Lee Hooker, Rip Tip Johnson) for a romp through the history of African-American music. Grammy Winner in category Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual Or Group
  • 1991 The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born - with guests Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) and Courtney Pine (tenor saxophone)
  • 1990 Crazy People Music
  • 1990 Mo' Better Blues - soundtrack to the movie
  • 1989 Do The Right Thing - music composed and conducted by Bill Lee
  • 1989 Trio Jeepy - an album of standards featuring Milt Hinton (bass) and Jeff Watts (drums)
  • 1988 Random Abstract
  • 1987 Renaissance - on "The Peacocks": Herbie Hancock – Piano, Buster Williams - Bass
  • 1986 Romances for Saxophone - some little pieces of classical evergreens
  • 1985 Royal Garden Blues
  • 1984 Scenes In The City

As sideman


External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Doc Severinsen
Tonight Show bandleader
1992 –1995
Succeeded by
Kevin Eubanks


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