Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler

Branford Marsalis And Joey Calderazzo's Top Five Jazz Duos

Branford Marsalis (right) and Joey Calderazzo.

Branford Marsalis (right) and Joey Calderazzo. Stephen Sheffield/Marsalis Music hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Sheffield/Marsalis Music

At the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet were booked on the main stage. You'd expect that: The saxophonist has been one of the best-known and most powerful players in his line of work for decades, and his working band reflects that.

But Marsalis also booked himself another gig at that festival — a duet set on a much smaller stage with his quartet's pianist, Joey Calderazzo. (You can still hear NPR Music's recording of that concert online.) It was something of an experiment, but when the two finished, they knew they had to make a studio recording.

Songs of Mirth and Melancholy was released yesterday on Marsalis Music, Branford's own record label. On account of the new duo album, we asked Marsalis and Calderazzo to tell us about their personal favorite jazz pairings. —Ed.

Branford Marsalis And Joey Calderazzo's Top Five Jazz Duos

Town Hall Jazz Concert 1945 cover

Don Byas & Slam Stewart

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Town Hall Jazz Concert 1945
  • Song: I Got Rhythm

Two lesser-known jazz greats got together at Town Hall in New York City in 1945. Don Byas was the musical midpoint between Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker. The emergence of Parker, and Byas' decision to move to Europe in the late 1940s, prevented his achieving greater recognition in the U.S. Slam Stewart was the bass player/sidekick in Slim and Slam — the "Slim" being singer-guitarist Slim Gaillard. The duo had many hits in the '30s and '40s, like "Flat Fleet Floogie," "Groove Juice Special" and "Down by the Station," but Stewart's success as a popular performer led to a diminishing of his great skill as a bassist. However, this recording is a sterling example of two great jazz artists.

The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album cover

Bill Evans & Tony Bennett

  • Artist: Bill Evans/Tony Bennett
  • Album: Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album [Bonus Tracks]
  • Song: Some Other Time

This is the first duo record Branford ever owned. It's a beautiful example of the symmetry that is possible in chamber-music situations.

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Song
Some Other Time
Album
Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album [Bonus Tracks]
Artist
Bill Evans/Tony Bennett
Label
Fantasy
Released
2006

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This One's For Blanton cover

Duke Ellington & Ray Brown

  • Artist: Duke Ellington with Ray Brown
  • Album: This One's for Blanton
  • Song: Pitter Panther Patter

In a tribute to former Duke Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton, Duke and the great bassist Ray Brown swing out on an Ellington classic originally from the '40s.

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Song
Pitter Panther Patter
Album
This One's for Blanton
Artist
Duke Ellington with Ray Brown
Label
Concord Music Group

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Sinatra at the Sands cover

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie

  • Artist: Frank Sinatra / Count Basie
  • Album: Sinatra at the Sands
  • Song: One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)

A classic standard interpreted by two of the great musicians. It's from the terrific Sinatra recording, Sinatra at the Sands.

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Song
One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
Album
Sinatra at the Sands
Artist
Frank Sinatra / Count Basie
Label
Reprise
Released
1966

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Thelonious Himself cover

Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane

  • Artist: Thelonious Monk
  • Album: Thelonious Himself
  • Song: Monk's Mood

One of the most important musical associations for John Coltrane was his tenure in Thelonious Monk's quartet in 1957. This song is from Thelonious Himself, otherwise mostly a solo piano record. Like Monk, Coltrane uses the tone of his instrument to create an emotional template in addition to a musical one.

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Song
Monk's Mood
Album
Thelonious Himself
Artist
Thelonious Monk
Label
Fantasy
Released
1957

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Songs of Mirth and Melancholy cover

Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo

  • Artist: Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo
  • Album: Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
  • Song: Endymion

Preview a track from the new recording Songs of Mirth and Melancholy.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Endymion
Album
Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
Artist
Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo
Label
Marsalis Music
Released
2011

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