Gary Giddins
January 17, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Branford Marsalis
genre
Jazz

We gave it a B+

A few years ago, skeptics were wondering if sax-playing Branford Marsalis was prone to sell out, since he was touring with Sting. Perhaps The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is his answer (and also conceivably his answer to anyone claiming he’ll be selling out when he starts his new gig as Doc Severinsen’s successor on The Tonight Show this spring). It’s a very long and uncompromising trio recital in which Marsalis pays homage to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Sonny Rollins, while demonstrating his own stunning command of tenor and soprano sax. Indeed, if anything the album is too pure: The strain of improvising with only the spartan sound of bass and drums for support ultimately gets wearying. Even the prototypical Rollins softened his trio work by using standard melodies. The highlight of Beautyful, not surprisingly, is a stunning, old-fashioned battle of the tenors, ”Dewey Baby,” with a guest appearance by Courtney Pine. Marsalis is almost always an imposing improviser, but on the tenor duel, intellectualism gives way to pure visceral excitement. B+

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