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Profile: Branford Marsalis

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Unlike his jazz-purist younger brother, Wynton, saxophonist Branford Marsalis has no ideological problems with pop music. The former Sting sideman and ex-Tonight Show bandleader — whose rap-funk-pop-jazz-rock band Buckshot LeFonque just released its second CD, Music Evolution — partly attributes his eclectic tastes to a youth spent soaking up free-form FM radio and talks wistfully about when deejays played King Crimson, Miles Davis, and the Allman Brothers side by side.

What was the first album you ever bought?

Elton John’s Honky Chateau and Cheech and Chong’s Los Cochinos. I was 10….I loved Elton John; I wanted to be Elton John. I used to try to play piano like him. Every time I see him, I’m 10 again. The first time I saw him in person, Sting tried to introduce me, and I didn’t want to meet him. It would have been too much.

What album do you make out to?

The Isley Brothers’ The Heat Is On, the ballad side. That stayed on my turntable through most of my freshman year [at Berklee College of Music], for obvious reasons. Especially that song ”Sensuality”; that got the job done.

What album do you chill out to?

It keeps changing. [Rolling Stones bassist] Darryl Jones told me about a record called Nat King Cole Sings/George Shearing Plays. That’s an amazing chill-out record….Right now, I find Fiona Apple’s Tidal very soothing.

What album do you turn to for spiritual sustenance?

When I’m troubled, there’s not really a record I can put on to soothe me. I’ve got to go and deal with myself, which is painful. But John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is clearly a very moving record, as is the second movement of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

What album do you put on for a funky good time?

Obviously, James Brown’s Star Time.

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