Branford Marsalis, saxophonist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I loved playing music, and had no aspirations to pursue a career in music. My brother, Wynton, and my dad insisted that I at least try, and talked me into moving to New York. Were it not for them, I’d be a history teacher, playing in a wedding band on the weekends.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Errol Garner, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Warne Marsh, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles, James Brown, Parliment-Funkadelic, Elton John, The Commodores, ConFunction, Jimi Hendrix, Dimitri Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, Johann S. Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Georg F. Handel, Francois Couperin, Jean Philippe Rameau, The Police, Sally Beamish, Wynton Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste, and the greatest art city in the world, New Orleans. To name a few.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Learning how to play and improve.

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?

All of them have contributed to my development as a musician.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I try to play as many styles as possible, on their terms, not mine.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

If I like it, we play it. Except in symphonic music, where you sometimes have to play what is requested.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My cover band in New Orleans, The Creators, playing as the house band at my high school, Eleanor McMain High in New Orleans, in 1977.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Getting better in all aspects of musicianship.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Listen to as many records as possible, develop a massive sound vocabulary, and learn to interact with the musicians you are onstage with.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Not dead.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Living life on your own terms, despite the ups and downs.

What is your most treasured possession?


What is your present state of mind?


The Branford Marsalis Quartet – brand-new album THE SECRET BETWEEN THE SHADOW AND THE SOUL available 1st March from OKeh Records/Sony Music; concert 1st March at the Barbican


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