There were fruits. I was awarded the all-state jazz saxophone slot my junior year of high school, among many other things. A fond memory is performing at the Lied Center with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra. I love the way my horn sounds in that place.
One of the first jazz recordings my dad gave me was one by Branford Marsalis. I believe it was his "dark keys" effort. My dad, being a full-time trumpeter, was a huge Wynton fan. Branford was the saxophonist brother.
Over the years I have been privileged to have seen every Marsalis perform. Ellis, the father, performed a breathtaking fire-side solo piano set at Alabama A&M in Huntsville. Wynton came with his quintet featuring his little bro Jason, the drummer, and played at the Von Braun Center (I have a picture somewhere with me and Wynton). And finally, after all these years, I got to see Branford Marsalis last night at the Lied Center of Performing Arts in Lincoln. His quartet featured, and I do mean featured, a young stallion of a drummer in Jason Faulkner. During a 10-minute plus long drum solo, Mr. Faulkner, barely of drinking age (Branford found him when he was 18) absolutely held the place captive with his unorthodox, weighty, and entirely spirited stylings. He was channeling something else. Sweating, yelling, and at times lifting from the throne, the drummer just shredded all night.
But that wasn't even the best part. Branford's pianist, Joey Calderazzo, has written a piece simply called "hope" that will change you. Hands down, the best tune of the night. Bill Evans has a rightful heir. With Branford's flute-like soprano, and the soundscape provided by Faulkner, Calderazzo mesmerized with an amazing solo on "hope" that was truly, some of the most moving music I have witnessed in a long time.
It reminded me why I love Jazz. These guys don't play songs, they play music. The spirit leads. I tell folks that I am a practical empiricist when it comes to music. Sense experience guides my taste, for better or worse. Branford, Calderazzo, and Faulkner, churned up the deep places last night.
I can't believe how time has passed so quickly and how my jazz days seem so distant. But Branford summoned up the spirit of jazz that I so deeply appreciate. And in the middle of it, I think time held still.
And today then, I got out my tenor and blew some of the blues numbers my fingers still know. Little Isi danced. Maybe he'll get the music bug.