UNCW Presents

The Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling

Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling

The Branford Marsalis Quartet will be joined by guest-vocalist Kurt Elling in a singular collaboration of musical forces. The tight-knit working band featuring Marsalis on saxophones, Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums rarely invites other musicians into the folds of their nearly telepathically cohesive unit, and Elling’s deep jazz vocabulary, technical versatility, and outstanding intonation will enable the band to perform a variety of material in new ways. Energized by the artistic promise of this collaboration, the band members have all contributed new arrangements to perform with this special line-up and will be looking beyond the Great American Songbook. Although following the format of a standard jazz quartet with vocals, the collaboration between jazz’s most intense band and one of jazz’s foremost singer should prove to be anything but standard.


Growing up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, Branford was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands. A growing fascination with jazz as he entered college gave him the basic tools to obtain his first major jobs, with trumpet legend Clark Terry and alongside Wynton in Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers. When the brothers left to form the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, the world of uncompromising acoustic jazz was invigorated. Branford formed his own quartet in 1986 and, with a few minor interruptions in the early years, has sustained the unit as his primary means of expression. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured. Its most recent recording, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, was named Best Instrumental Jazz Album in 2012 by iTunes. Learn more on Marsalis' website <<here>>.

Elling's rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word, and poetry. Elling is a renowned artist of vocalese—the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos. The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling has set his own lyrics to the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. He often incorporates images and references from writers such as Rilke, Rumi, Neruda and Proust into his work. The late poet and Bollingen Prize winner Robert Creeley wrote, "Kurt Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars. His words are informed by a powerful poetic spirit." Said Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, "In Kurt Elling's art, the voice of jazz gives a new spiritual presence to the ancient, sweet and powerful bond between poetry and music." Learn more on Mr. Elling's website <<here>>.