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Known for his skills on the saxophone, Branford Marsalis is a jazz musician who has won three Grammy Awards, worked on acclaimed albums and toured around the world.
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Though he had been recording with Columbia since 1983, Branford left them and started his own label, Marsalis Music, in 2002. Performers for Marsalis Music have included Harry Connick Jr. and Miguel Zenón. Branford also continues to tour, appearing in venues that range from clubs to concert halls. He added Broadway to his resume when he composed the music for the 2010 revival of August Wilson's Fences.
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, Branford contributed to fundraising efforts and worked to create a music center in the city's Upper Ninth Ward. He has also taught students at institutions such as San Francisco State, Michigan State and North Carolina Central.
In 2011, Branford, Ellis, Wynton and the other two jazz musicians in the Marsalis family—Delfeayo and Jason—were named "Jazz Masters" by the National Endowment for the Arts. It was the first group award for the program, and an indication of how great an impact Branford and his family have had in the world of jazz.
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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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