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The Branford Marsalis Quartet Metamorphosen Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Metamorphosen is a prime example of highly-developed, idiomatic, modern American jazz.

Colin Buttimer 2009

The Branford Marsalis Quartet has been playing together for a decade or so, plenty of time to get acquainted. In fact, enough time to become symbiotic. The definition of that word notes that close association is advantageous to all participants. On the evidence of Metamorphosen, that’s very much the case.

Opener The Return of the Jitney Man, is angular and detailed. Each member’s solo is just the right side of frenetic and there’s an admirable, ongoing sense of tension and release. The Blossom of Parting, led by pianist Joey Calderazzo, is gentler and more melodic. Although occasionally overwrought, the leader’s solo which drives the second half of the composition, reins in the melodrama to convey a finely-wrought sense of hard-won wisdom.

Abe Vigoda combines the abstraction of Jitney Man with the relative sparseness of Blossom of Parting. The uncluttered outcome creates a welcome sense of space before the album’s sole cover. Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-A-Ning is powered by muscular beats courtesy of Jeff “Tain” Watts and the leader’s pointy exposition. It’s a pleasure to hear the group push and stretch the composition.

The Last Goodbye, an enchantingly mournful composition, is a fine solo piece by bassist Eric Revis. Samo © closes the album in subdued, reflective mood, but gradually increases in power until it achieves a dervish-like intensity.

Metamorphosen is a prime example of highly-developed, idiomatic, modern American jazz. As such, it delivers intelligent and at times fiery interaction and is an enjoyable document of Marsalis’ ongoing journey. However, despite the immense facility and sense of engagement, there’s little sense of risk or boundary-testing about the enterprise.

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