Branford Marsalis: Playing with Sting for four years was a great experience

Branford Marsalis returns to Budapest, Müpa, 5 March 2019, 7:30 pm

Branford Marsalis is one of the most renowned American jazz saxophonists. Apart from his jazz quartett, he also plays together with pop musicians and at classical concerts, and he even appeared in a film by Spike Lee. He played with Sting for four years, also at the Live Aid in 1985. He teaches at numerous music universities and he has received several honorary doctor titles for his academic achievements. This is not the first time he plays in Budapest – this time, the Branford Marsalis Quartet presents its new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, which will be released in March.

Do you remember your concert from 1998 at the Dokk, Budapest, playing with Kenny Kirkland on piano?

Not really. That was a long time ago. I wish I did, since it was the same year he died.

How do you look back on the decade that you played with Sting?

It was only 4 years, and I look back at it very fondly. I wish I were not so young at that time, I would have been more thoughtful in remembering it. Such is the way with young people.

Your music career covers not only the jazz field, but also classical music, broadway and even a Spike Lee movie role? How can this be done by one person alone? Not only your interest, but your talent covers such a wide range. Let alone your music academic role and awards.

My curiosity led me to constantly listen to a wide range of music, and try many things as a young person. I was a theater student in high school; that helped me a lot when Spike asked me to be in his movie. Every type of music I have played outside of jazz, I had experience playing and listening to in my younger years.

On your last album before this year’s new release, the Upward Spiral your guest was Kurt Elling, who is also quite loved by the Hungarian audience. You said in an interview: “Working with Kurt for a year and a half took me back to what I learned in hindsight from my gig with Sting, Working with a singer changes you in ways you don’t realize.” Do you still have this get to the point focus?

Of course, but it’s a different point now. Working with singers, you have to understand that you are in a support role. Now that we are a quartet again, we use that experience to support each other.

Your new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul is coming out on March 1. Will you mostly play these tunes at the Budapest concert?

Yes, along with a few others.

Does your album title have anything to do with Pablo Neruda’s XVII sonnet ‘No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio’?

Yes and no. I read his poetry, and the title comes from that. But the poem is not a source of inspiration for the band, as they don’t read it.

In the description of your new album we read: “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul confirms Branford Marsalis’s vision.  It is sophisticated, adventurous and anything but defensive, and it captures a great band sounding better than ever.“ True?

I have no idea. Clearly, I didn’t write that. The record does confirm our vision as a group, for better or worse.

How do you see the Hungarian jazz scene? Any Hungarian favorites?

I don’t travel to Hungary enough to know any local or national musicians.

What do you say in advance to the Hungarian audience?

I look forward to playing for the Hungarian audience. You have traditionally had a great ear for instrumental music, and I hope you enjoy what we do.

Interview and translation: Enikő Nagy