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Branford Marsalis Waxes Philosophical

Stacy M. Brown | 2/13/2013, 4:02 p.m.

Jazz Man Performs at the Clarice Smith Center

Exuding the class often associated with jazz, a member of an esteemed family waxes philosophical about music, Hollywood and growing up in a family of accomplished musicians.

Grammy award winner Branford Marsalis intends to mesmerize the audience Friday evening when he and his quartet perform before jazz aficionados, longtime fans and newcomers to the genre.

Marsalis said there's a uniqueness about jazz musicians, largely because of the laid back style of the music and the perceived sophistication that it takes to create jazz.

"There are a lot of musicians interested in jazz because of the intellectual component. But, a lot of guys also play jazz because that's all they know how to play," said Marsalis, who is touring the country with his quartet to bolster his latest CD, "Four MFs Playin' Tunes," which is currently available at Marsalis' website, www.branfordmarsalis.com and iTunes.com. The CD has already been named Apple iTunes Instrumental Jazz Album of the Year.

While Marsalis once toyed with playing other styles of music, such as rhythm and blues, the famed jazz man said he couldn't envision doing anything differently.

"Music today is more processed than it used to be," he said. "Appearances with today's pop stars seem to be more important than the delivery in a lot of respects. While there are talented musicians today in pop, there is certainly an acute lack of variety."

Marsalis said he's also saddened when he hears criticism of some black artists who cross over to other genres not typically associated with black audiences.

"Everything is codified today and it's wrong," he said. "Darius Rucker is playing country music and I heard some guy say that Darius should just play his own music. That's wrong. That is our music and Darius should keep playing, I love it. Look, Charlie Pride was country. We can't define things by color because James Brown wasn't one dimensional, neither was Smokey Robinson and look at Lola Falana, nobody back then called what she was doing not black. Nobody questioned any of their blackness."

Marsalis also took issue with Hollywood, whom he said also misses the boat when it comes to accurately portraying black artists. The fact that Mary J. Blige, an R&B singer, is cast as Betty Shabazz in a television movie and some rap stars are given prominent roles in dramas, is a result of the lack of diversity and, perhaps, vision, he said.

Casting such talent serves only to take away roles from potential young actors, something Marsalis admits he's been guilty of as well.

"Hollywood has used bigger name rappers and musicians to fill spots that could have gone to someone else in that field," he said. "That includes me." Marsalis has appeared in such movies as "Mo' Better Blues,"; "School Daze," and "Throw Momma from the Train."

He has also contributed music to such films as "The Russia House,"; "Malcolm X," and "Do the Right Thing."

Despite the acting roles, Marsalis' commitment to his craft remains unshakeable, he said.