An Evening with Branford Marsalis

Last night was An Evening with Branford Marsalis with some of my old SPAC buddies.  Thank You Linda for the invite!!  It was so great to catch up, but sad too because three of the four of us are no longer with SPAC.  We all love SPAC, we were excited beyond belief when we got our year-round positions, we all thought “this is it!  I will be here forever!”  But we all left for the same reasons, and now, as audience members, performances seem a bit more magical.

Lamentation aside – it was a beautiful night.  We had a quick picnic before attending the Pre-Performance Talk with Branford Marsalis, interviewed by Don Liuzzi, principal timpani for The Philadelphia Orchestra.   When Branford walked in the room, you noticed immediately how handsome he is.  We sat right up front so we were not more than ten feet away from him – it was very cool!  I have been a fan of Branford since he played with Sting on the 1986 live album, “Bring on the Night.”  He also played with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers in the 80s – and Art Blakey (1919-1990) is the father of a dear friend of mine and my husband.  Branford was passionate, engaging, funny and surprisingly nervous about his performance in Scaramouche later that night.

The Program:
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Branford Marsalis, saxophone

DEBUSSY – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
BIZET/arr. Hoffman – from Suites from Carmen
WILLIAMS – Escapades, for alto saxophone and orchestra (from the movie “Catch Me If You Can“)
RAVEL – Rapsodie espagnole
MILHAUD – Scaramouche, Op. 165c, suite for alto saxophone and orchestra
*then Branford & one of the bass players threw in a jazz improv that was not on the program
RAVEL – Bolero

As you can imagine, the crowd went wild for Branford, and I especially enjoyed the jazz jam.  During his Pre-Performance Talk, Branford was humble about The Marsalis Family having been named 2011 Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts.  He feels there is much more to learn before he deserves that title… but anyone who can come out on stage, use no sheet music, close their eyes and simply feel the music is a true master in my eyes.

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