Branford Marsalis: Swingin' At The Haven


Swinging at the Haven


Branford Marsalis (tenor sax, soprano sax)


Royal Garden Blues (Columbia 40363)

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Branford Marsalis (tenor sax, soprano sax), Ellis Marsalis (piano), Ron Carter (bass),

Ralph Peterson (drums)


Composed by Ellis Marsalis


Recorded: New York City, July 2, 1986


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

In 1986, when Branford Marsalis recorded Royal Garden Blues, his second album as leader, he had recently left his brother Wynton Marsalis' band to join Sting, a somewhat controversial association that broadened the saxophonist's exposure, if not his appeal, as one of the post-bop "young lions." Although he may not yet have achieved an identifiable, individual sound or style circa 1986, he was just as polished, discerning, and fully versed as Wynton in jazz history and the multitude of idiomatic possibilities it afforded for creative expansion.

Sounding like a cross between '50's John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, Branford's tenor assuredly navigates the chord changes of his father's tune, "Swingin' at the Haven," with Ellis himself sitting in on piano. Branford varies his attack inventively, obviously unwilling just to coast along on autopilot. He challenges himself to elaborate on fresh ideas and takes unpredictable twists and turns along the way. Ellis responds with a well-developed solo played with refined Tommy Flanagan-like touch and precision. Peterson is given a chance to display his formidable percussive skills before Branford takes the piece out swingingly. Branford has come a long way since this early effort, but "Swingin' At the Haven' remains a worthwhile listen.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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