Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images
Branford Marsalis will be touring Canada this summer with his quartet; starting in November, they're scheduled to tour Europe and the United States. Above, Marsalis plays a set for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Branford Marsalis will be touring Canada this summer with his quartet; starting in November, they're scheduled to tour Europe and the United States. Above, Marsalis plays a set for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images
With two Grammy Awards to his credit, Branford Marsalis is one of jazz's most prominent saxophonists. In addition to his performing career, Marsalis runs his own independent record label, Marsalis Music.
Marsalis' family is jazz royalty. His father, Ellis Marsalis, Jr., is a celebrated pianist, and his brothers Wynton, Jason and Delfeayo are also jazz musicians. The most recent entry in Branford's long catalogue of recordings is Metamorphosen, with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, released in March 2009.
From 1992-95, Marsalis was the band leader for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and he has performed with Sting, the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby.
Marsalis joined Fresh Air in 2002 on the occasion of the release of Footsteps of Our Fathers. The album featured his cover of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."
In the interview, he recalls growing up with a jazz pianist as a father. As a child, Marsalis confesses, he didn't like jazz much, preferring Elton John and James Brown to Miles Davis and Coltrane.
"Jazz is not for kids. ... Jazz has a level of sophistication that's just too hip for kids," he explains.
"I felt about my father's music the way that my next-door neighbor felt about his father the chauffeur driver," Marsalis says. "That was just what he did."
In one humorous anecdote, he recalls his father — a jazzman to the core — listening to a James Brown record and snapping, inappropriately, on the two and four beats.
This interview was originally broadcast Oct. 21, 2002