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14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 12, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Following the 2004 Grammyr-nominated Eternal, and drawing upon a world of inspirations including John Coltrane, a 17th Century English composer, an American Indian warrior and a Japanese horror film, Braggtown is the Branford Marsalis Quartet's most comprehensive and compelling recording to date. Marsalis selected the strongest new songs from his current repertoire, with an emphasis on what he describes as "that kind of high-energy music we've been playing in live performance. A jazz recording in no uncertain terms, Braggtown finds four exceptional musicians Branford Marsalis (tenor and soprano saxophones), Joey Calderazzo (piano), Eric Revis (bass) and Jeff Tain Watts (drums) at the top of their collective game.

Tenor/soprano saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a master of the "burnout"--an intense but deliberate and focused style of jazz that has its roots in John Coltrane. Unlike many Trane-ologists, however, Marsalis uses Trane's concepts instead of the master's notes. On Braggtown, named for a neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, Marsalis delivers a virtual clinic on how to play 21st-century jazz, with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, pianist Joey Calderazzo, and bassist Eric Revis. The pieces range from the uptempo "Jack Baker" and "Blakzilla"--Watts's polyrhythmic props to Godzilla--to the reverent rendition of the 17th-century composer Henry Purcell’s "O Solitude," and Revis's intense, long-form composition, "Black Elk Speaks," complete with his impassioned, Mingusian bass solo, with references to Star Trek: The Next Generation. On all of the tracks Marsalis's tone is impossibly brilliant and burnished, and for my money, this recording is the worthy successor to his 1990 masterpiece, Crazy People Music. --Eugene Holley Jr.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 12, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Marsalis Music
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,416 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tim Niland on October 22, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This album is really the tale of two Branfords, the first being the tenor saxophone wielding scrapper fighting his way through bruising workouts that sound like Crescent era John Coltrane, chased by Elvin Jones own doppelganger, Jeff "Tain" Watts. The other Branford is the romantic poet using his soprano saxophone at crawling tempos to create lush patient improvisations. Besides Marsalis and Watts, Joey Calderazzo plays piano and Eric Revis plays bass. The burning tenor songs make the biggest impact on me, they are the easiest to understand as they are firmly rooted in the past and paovide the frame of reference in the music that John Coltrane had pioneered in the mid-1960's.

"Jack Baker" leads off the album and along with the Watts feature "Blakzilla" and "Black Elk Speaks" the music is very exciting and very much in the post bop tenor saxophone tradition. Often, Calderazzo and Revis become superfluous to the music, and Marsails and Watts break away and interact much like Coltrane and Jones at their most intense. The soprano saxophone features, "Hope," "Fate" and "O Solitude" are much more difficult for me to understand, as the music is taken at a very slow pace and requires a lot of patience to listen to and understand. Marsalis also has a very limpid tone on the soprano, which although quite individual and unique, is not something that reaches out and grabs your attention. So in the end, there is an interesting album which runs the gamut from very fast to very slow, becoming the tortoise and the hare simultaneously.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scott Whigham on November 17, 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
"Hope", for me, is one of those rare pieces that comes along every 100 albums that you buy - one of those songs that you could hear 1,000 times and still get your heart ripped out each time you hear it. Kenny Garret's "Sing a Song of Song" (although not a ballad) was that way for me and "Hope" is, like Sing a Song, one of those songs that I could hear every day for two years and still enjoy it immensely every time.

The other songs are great too - a very enjoyable album - but I just haven't found anything better than "Hope" in a long time.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Olukayode Balogun on December 19, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Good album, though I feel fellow jazz musicians, music students, and jazz critics, (those know-it-alls who write for snooty jazz magazines), will enjoy it a lot better than I ever will. The intent seems pretty clear: the inner sleeve notes use a lot of technical terms that will probably get some people very excited but mean absolutely nothing to an ordinary layman listener like me.

The quartet is Branford Marsalis on saxophones, Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Jeff Tain Watts on drums. They kick off the album with "Jack Baker", a burst of muscle and testosterone... maybe that's what the cover locker room photographs are all about... and I'm loving the main theme of the song but then the solos start and I just feel lost. It's not till the main theme is played again that I regain any sense of what's going on.

"Hope" and "Fate", written by Calderazzo and Marsalis respectively, are much more on my level, with rhythms and melodies I can actually get a handle on and these two tunes with the sombre "O Solitude" are worth the price of the CD all on their own.

The Watts-penned "Blackzilla", (written in 13/8 time, we're told), is to me, just a whirlwind of sounds and 100mph saxophone playing. It's probably my least favourite track on the album.

"Sir Roderick, The Aloof", written by Marsalis is another nice tune to listen to but the closer, "Black Elk Speaks", written Revis sounds to me like just more saxophone saying a lot but nothing I understand. It calms down a bit towards the middle, with lovely playing from Calderazzo but then it just breaks down again and I just feel like pressing the stop button.

I've always believed that jazz should be thought provoking but I've also always believed it should be fun.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tick tock on February 21, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I've been listening to jazz for almost 40 years and I'm not sure I really know enough about music to do this record justice in a review. But here goes. What I can say is that there's a lot going on here. Marsalis has developed over the years, flexing his Coltrane muscle to the breaking point, but at the same time retaining a beautiful, lyrical tone when tackling slower ballads. "Hope" and "Solitude" are among some of the most moving tracks I have heard in the past few years and from reading other reviews on this record, it looks as though I'm not the only one with that opinion. Like the rest of his family, Branford continues to search for his voice in a journey that will not disappoint his listeners.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Michael Bowen on September 28, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Less focused on tradition than *Footsteps of Our Fathers,* less overtly spiritual than *Eternal,* the seven tracks of *Braggtown* have their own boasts to make. In the album's highlight, "Hope," the piano of composer Joey Calderazzo blends with Marsalis' yearning soprano tone in a ballad that descends almost into hopelessness at midpoint, then intensifies as Marsalis' ascending runs sustain an insistent search into the inexpressibility of what will set us free. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts shines on his composition "Blakzilla": pounding the toms, slashing at cymbals, his angry accents evident even under Branford's wailing tenor line. Yet there's a milder classical influence here also: "O Solitude" is based on a Henry Purcell work, and the liner notes compare Calderazzo's work to Chopin and Messianen. On "Black Elk Speaks," by bassist Eric Revis, Branford's tenor recalls and even quotes late-era Coltrane. But Revis -- repeatedly growling "a beautiful day to die" -- comes to the forefront with his percussive fretwork and ferocious use of the bow. Branford's quartet has earned some bragging rights.
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