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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

toggle 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

  • Song: I Got Rhythm
  • from Town Hall Jazz Concert 1945
  • by Various Artists

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.

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The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album cover

Some Other Time

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Bill Evans & Tony Bennett

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

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
Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album [Bonus Tracks]
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

Pitter Panther Patter

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Duke Ellington & Ray Brown

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

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
This One's for Blanton
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

One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)

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Frank Sinatra & Count Basie

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

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
Sinatra at the Sands
Album
Sinatra at the Sands
Artist
Frank Sinatra / Count Basie
Label
Reprise
Released
1966

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Thelonious Himself cover

Monk's Mood

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Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane

  • Song: Monk's Mood
  • from Thelonious Himself
  • by Thelonious Monk

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
Thelonious Himself
Album
Thelonious Himself
Artist
Thelonious Monk
Label
Fantasy
Released
1957

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Songs of Mirth and Melancholy cover

Endymion

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Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo

  • Song: Endymion
  • from Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
  • by Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo

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

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

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