Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis is putting his family name on a newly established independent label, Marsalis Music. Launched in collaboration with family patriarch and noted pianist Ellis Marsalis
Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis is putting his family name on a newly established independent label, Marsalis Music. Launched in collaboration with family patriarch and noted pianist Ellis Marsalis, the Cambridge, Mass.-based label will be distributed by Rounder Records, based in nearby Boston.
"The consolidation of the record industry into major conglomerates has turned the business into a mega-hit pop music machine with a very short-term focus," Branford said in a statement. "Artists who want to be musicians, not marketing creations, have very few places to record anymore. We formed Marsalis music to provide a real alternative."
The saxophonist -- who has toured and recorded with the likes of Clark Terry, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Sting, as well as his older brother Wynton -- is the first artist signed to the label. His upcoming album, "Footsteps of Our Fathers" -- a tribute to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, due in late summer -- will be among the first releases for the label, which expects to announce additional artists signed to its roster in the near future.
Previously Branford has only released solo material through Sony's Columbia label, beginning with 1983's "Scenes in the City." His latest album, "Creation," was his second classical set released by Columbia. Backed by New York's Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the album peaked last June at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Classical Albums chart.
Along with album releases, Marsalis Music plans to make a commitment to nurture its audience through educational and cultural outreach programs. By tapping Ellis' background as a teacher at the University of New Orleans and Branford's past experience teaching at Michigan State and San Francisco State Universities, the label will sponsor a Marsalis Jams program to focus on musicians and interested listeners at colleges.
"But we also recognize the need to extend these efforts to the community level, where people first learn to play music and develop their musical tastes, and to the broader arena of the arts," the label's Bob Blumenthal said in the statement. Blumenthal is a renowned Boston Globe jazz critic and winner of two Grammy awards for his liner notes who plans to step down from his post March 1 to take an executive role overseeing the educational and cultural goals of the newly founded label.
"We hope to make history," Marsalis added, "but we guarantee that we will give artists the freedom to make great music."