NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – We got a real treat recently having Branford Marsalis in town. And while we often consider the Marsalis’ the first family of Jazz, Branford said mastering his horn came by playing a variety of music.
“So I didn’t really grow up with the categories,” Marsalis explained. “I moved to the east coast to Boston, and they said, ‘Ya know, what are you?’ ‘What kinda of music?’ I said, ‘Whatever it calls for.’ They said, ‘Naw, that’s not possible. You gotta play one.’
“I didn’t grow up that way.”
From playing with Sting to leading The Tonight Show Band, to playing with the Grateful Dead and others, Marsalis has got a musical resume to die for, and he has never lost track of how growing up in New Orleans helped prepare him to share the stage with anyone. “The thing about growing up in New Orleans is that you play with everybody. Like my dad did gigs with Elvis. Know what I mean?”
Branford was in town to pay tribute to the great Alvin Batiste at the Louis Armstrong Summer Cam Concert Series, and he credits his time under Batiste at Southern with helping him to get serious about his music.
Marsalis said Batiste taught him how to put a band together. “I think the most important thing he did for me is he threw me out of school. The funny thing is before he died, he always denied it, but it’s totally true. He threw my ass out of school because I wasn’t serious enough.”
Marsalis got really serious over the years, so serious that he works harder now than ever to get even better with daily practice.
“Once I left ‘The Tonight Show,’ I said I’m going to start practicing everyday, and so what I stated doing was playing, taking classical lessons,” Marsalis said.
Harry Connick Jr. and Marsalis’ role in helping to build the Musicians Village and the music center that bears his father’s name is something that came naturally.
Marsalis says, “Man, you know. We were raised to do that.”
New Orleans is a much richer city with native sons like Branford Marsalis.