‘Suede’ tone

Branford Marsalis Laxson Auditorium, Fri., Oct. 8

Branford Marsalis’ recent Laxson show was not everyone’s cup of tea, even for the self-professed jazz lovers in attendance. After all, soprano and tenor sax man Marsalis and his quartet—Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on upright bass and the fantastic Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums—played only two well-known standards: “Limehouse Blues” and “Mood Indigo.”

The bulk of the performance was what some would call kind of out there, consisting largely of moody ballads with minimalist sax, piano and bass lines that occasionally morphed into complex wildness, as on the Watts original, “Vodville” ("in honor of the potato … in its liquid form,” Marsalis pointed out, smiling).

The show was nonetheless very satisfying. Marsalis’ tone on the soprano sax was beautiful—warm and woody—and his spare, long-note horn lines showed off the tone to full effect. In fact, Marsalis, Revis and Watts (who used mallets a good part of the night) collectively produced a sound best described as suede-like. Even when the volume was brought up on occasion, the sound was never loud or harsh. Subtleties like Revis’ rubbing his fingers on his bass strings to end a song were great touches to a polished show.