Stories » Branford Marsalis Quartet makes it look easy at St. Pete's Mahaffey Theater / Creative Loafing Tampa

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Branford Marsalis Quartet makes it look easy at St. Pete's Mahaffey Theater / Creative Loafing Tampa

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I had to blink a few times to make sure it was real: the dimly lit Mahaffey Theater stage backed by a plain black curtain, acoustic instruments clustered intimately together in the center. Yes, this was going to happen. The Branford Marsalis Quartet had come to St. Petersburg to perform in one of our elite concert halls on Thursday night.

The quartet entered from stage right - sharp-dressed men in suits. Marsalis, who plays tenor and soprano saxophones, leaned on the piano, greeted the crowd, introduced the band, and bantered a bit. The charming and witty host. He and his cohorts proceeded to do something that's borderline sacrilegious for an acoustic jazz combo. They entertained the people. We're not talking about entertainment so cerebral that the only suitable reaction is to close your eyes and bob your head. This was instrumental music that sent tingles down your spine, made your jaw drop; put a smile on your face and a chuckle in your throat; it also, at times, conjured waves of melancholy. Tunes ended and elicited full-throated cheers rather than polite applause and knowing nods. Hell, Marsalis and company even moved a few crowd members to testify, church-style. "Play it, man!" 

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