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An innovative saxophonist, Branford Marsalis has been making jazz albums for over 30 years and was briefly the musical director on the Tonight Show.
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Musician. Born August 26, 1960, in Beaux Bridge, Louisiana. Branford is the oldest of four brothers, all of whom are jazz musicians along with their father, Ellis. A brilliantly innovative saxophonist, Marsalis studied at Southern University and Berklee before beginning his professional career with Art Blakey's big band in 1980. In 1984, he released his first album, Scenes In the City. He joined his brother Wynton's group a couple years later, but left in 1985 to play in Sting's backup band, as well as to tour with Miles Davis.
In 1986, Marsalis formed his own group with pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Bob Hurst, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Marsalis became a national celebrity in 1992 when he signed on to be musical director for Jay Leno's Tonight Show, a job which lasted only until1995. With the intent of combining jazz and hip-hop, the musician formed the Buckshot LeFonque project shortly thereafter.
The Grammy Award-winning musician is also a music producer, writer and performer of of film scores, and a member of the music faculty at San Francisco State and Michigan State Universities. He has been recording steadily for Columbia since 1983.
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Saxophonists have been an integral part of the American jazz scene, with the timbres of their chosen instrument often at the center of layered compositions. Coleman Hawkins was the first American jazz saxophonist to become famous during the 1920s-30s. Jimmy Dorsey and Johnny Hodges also had major success with big bands during jazz's heyday as a popular music juggernaut, while Lester Young popularized the West Coast, cool style. Later, soprano and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane created pioneering works that ranged from "sheets of sound" bebop to unbound, rhythmically complex free jazz. And Branford Marsalis has taken his sax to great heights in non-jazz arenas; he's toured with rock artist Sting and served as musical director for The Tonight Show.
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