The orchestra will play selections from the likes of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and many other notable jazz musicians.
Ketch said that Marsalis hardly ever plays on alto saxophone when he is not recording classical music. Marsalis’ alto saxophone solos would be a treat for the audience, he said.
“To me, they were almost the highlights of the rehearsal the other night,” Ketch said.
Ketch said that he thinks the collaboration will be a great experience. The orchestra offers Marsalis a big band sound, and his reputation could open doors to a new demographic for the orchestra itself.
“I’m excited about the fact that these are all North Carolinians, primarily, coming to hear us and maybe 80 percent of them will be hearing us for the first time,” Ketch said.
Marsalis, who lives in Durham, played on campus in January, when his younger brother Wynton Marsalis performed at Memorial Hall.
Branford and Wynton have an intense, but respectful rivalry, Branford Marsalis said. The brothers are a year apart.
“It’s really inspiring to have that motivation,” he said.
Branford Marsalis said that nowadays, there is an escapist mentality when it comes to music — and he makes it a case to avoid that.
“I’m not in the trends business,” he said. “I’m in the excellence business — and that is not a trend. I can’t afford to be fake or my music will be.”
His passion for excellence is paying off, Ketch said.
“My guess is that the vast majority of these people are really just coming because they see Branford’s name, and they may not know anything about me or our orchestra,” he said.
The jazz orchestra, however, is one of the most visible jazz bands in the state, said Stephen Anderson, a UNC music professor.
“The intention here was to bring them together; it was never about Branford the star,” said Emil Kang, executive director for the arts. “It’s great music by local people.”
Aside from his music and work as a professor at N.C. Central University, Branford Marsalis prides himself on continuing the kinds of family values that he grew up with.
“I’m practicing, trying to get better, raising my kids and going on the road,” he said.
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