Coming to the stage, Branford said he loves Rose Hall and opened with “a love song” by bassist Eric Revis. “Dance of the Evil Toys” quickly became demonic – soldiers in combat while the children sleep – and near me an audience member called out “If that’s a love song, you better play a war song.”
“Dance of the Evil Toys” also opens The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, released today, March 1, on Okeh Records.
For “Conversation Among the Ruins,” composed by pianist Joey Calderazzo, Branford shifted from tenor saxophone to soprano. His powerful breath delivers streams of ideas balanced by Calderazzo’s musical speech and theater. Once to my absolute delight Joey’s two fists chased each other up the piano keys. But only once. This music does not indulge in reprises.
So it was surprising that tune #3 was “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” (played by Chico in the Marx Brothers’s Monkey Business in 1931, a fact I learned after the show). Marsalis on tenor. The strategy emerged: a song for the audience, a song for the band.
“Light Filtering from the Water Flowers” (soprano) felt cinematic … French? … a thunderstorm? … braiding improv and narrative … Marsalis back-announced the piece and the name confirmed the experience. “Sunny Side of the Street” (tenor) came as a graceful lament. Then the finale jettisoned storylines and lyricism for intensity, speed and accuracy, hard work. Drummer Justin Faulkner leaned in big time.
Citizens of the Blues – trumpet, piano, bass and drums students from Juilliard and Manhattan Schools – opened the concert, and they played their opportunity just right. After two original pieces, they surprised this older audience with the unadorned, distinctive melody of “A House Is Not a Home” (1964 hit for Dionne Warwick), back announced by trumpeter Anthony Hervey who said, “If you recognized it, we did our job,” with Isaiah J. Thompson, piano; Philip Norris, bass; Domo Branch, drums.
Wish I had a picture.