Picks and Pans Review: Scenes in the City
People who have followed the rocketing career of wundertrumpeter Wynton Marsalis often observe that his older brother, Branford, a frequent side-man, is every bit as accomplished on the saxophone and just may play with a shade more looseness and warmth. On his first album as a leader, Branford, 23, adds fuel to that argument. On tenor, his tone is rich and strong, and he swings like the dickens. On soprano, he gets that distinctively round, somehow gooselike voice out of the instrument, as the best players do. Yet for all its ease and crackling authority, his playing begs the same question his more famous brother's does: Who is he? Branford has absorbed the aggressive, post-bop idiom of the late '50s and early '60s, but so far he hasn't gone beyond it or refashioned it in his image. No Backstage Pass, with Branford on tenor, accompanied by a bass and drums, evokes the sound of Wayne Shorter in his Miles Davis days. Solstice, a bob-and-weave number with Branford on tenor and soprano, in a quartet setting, conjures up early '60s John Coltrane. Like Wynton, and indeed a lot of young players, Branford has mastered the tools of his art and much of its literature. He's earned our interest in the next phase of his education, when whatever discoveries there will be must come from within. (Columbia)
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