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Branford Marsalis Quartet coming to Harris Center on Sunday with brand new music

Undated promo photo of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. From left to right: pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Undated promo photo of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. From left to right: pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis and drummer Justin Faulkner. Eric Ryan Anderson

He’s performed alongside the Grateful Dead, the Dave Matthews Band and Sting. He’s appeared in a Spike Lee film. He’s played at Carnegie Hall. And this Sunday, Branford Marsalis and his jazz quartet are coming to the Harris Center in Folsom for a sold-out show.

The saxophonist founded his quartet in 1986 and its longtime members share what Marsalis calls “emotional honesty” built on years of collaboration.

Pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner have been playing in the quartet for 20, 23 and 10 years respectively, and after each taking some time to discover their individual roles, Marsalis said they’ve reached a point of mutual understanding.

“With this particular group, I love the way we play together. I love the ease, the comfort level that we have with one another,” Marsalis said. “As a group of musicians we don’t have to rely on technical virtuosity.”

Although they’ve got that in spades, too. Marsalis has played with jazz legends such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and has won three Grammys over the course of his career.

But for Marsalis, who is an accomplished classical and pop saxophonist as well, it’s the energy of jazz music that especially attracts him, he said.

“On any specific jazz song, I have four or five options, on a Sting song there’s maybe two options,” Marsalis said. “I am not a person who believes that music that has two options is aesthetically inferior to the one that has five. It’s just that one has two and one has five.”

All four musicians contributed to the quartet’s most recent album, “Upward Spiral,” which was released in 2016 and featured the vocals of Kurt Elling. The quartet’s Sunday concert will be instrumental, which Marsalis said grants him more independence as a soloist.

“Generally when we play as a quartet we have to be in service to the song. When you work with a singer you have to be in service to the singer,” Marsalis said. “Now we’re playing music that we would not play if there were a singer.”

Marsalis said that he’s worked toward focusing more on the emotional intensity of the music rather than on the technical minutia in order to play complex music without overcomplicating song structure.

“You take simple songs and stretch it at the edges,” Marsalis said. “It’s hard to do that when you don’t play with the same musicians.”

Marsalis said the quartet will be playing previously unreleased music at Sunday’s concert.

If you go

Where: The Harris Center at 10 College 10 College Pkwy, Folsom

When: Sunday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.

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