Wednesday, June 29, 2011

STRUTTING THEIR STUFF

Mirth and Melancholy is Branford Marsalis’ fourth duet album. Branford made one with his father, Ellis, and two with singer and piano player Harry Connick Jr. This time around, Branford teams up with his longtime bandmate Joey Calderazzo, who in 1998 replaced Branford’s regular piano player Kenny Kirkland. Joey found his voice in Branford’s band, and Joey has recorded two albums on Branford’s label Marsalis Music.

Mirth and Melancholy, which Marsalis Music released on June 7, is the best of Branford’s duet albums. The music on the album is what the title proclaims. There’s two mirthful songs the opener One Way and the closer Bri’s Dance. Branford and Joel have a field day improvising on those songs. 

Mirth and Melancholy is more melancholic, but in a good and interesting way. It also has a classical music feel. You will be taken by Branford and Joey’s virtuosity. Branford always makes great albums, and his musical achievements are known. But, his cerebral way of improvising gets overlooked. Branford’s musical imagination is on par with Sonny Rollins.

Back to Joey. In Branford’s band, Joey’s chief responsibility is backing Branford, which is a big undertaking because Branford is a note monger. Count the notes Branford plays on Face on the Barroom Floor, and Precious. In a one on one setting, Joey seems less stressed.

That’s clear on The Bard Lachrymose and Endymion. Joey isn’t face with the everyday chores of a jazz piano player. Joey roves and explores freely. Mirth and Melancholy shows two virtuoso jazz musicians making each other look good.
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