We’ve been waiting for Branford Marsalis to integrate all of the idioms he has been flirting with over the years — and he has done it brilliantly with Buckshot LeFonque. Looking even more ebullient than usual, Marsalis and a large, solid electric band put on a display at the House of Blues that ought to shame most panderers who call their music “fusion.”
In case you’re wondering, the name Buckshot LeFonque didn’t come out of thin air; it was a pseudonym that another open-minded saxophonist, Cannonball Adderley, used in the 1950s. Perhaps steeling himself for the purist backlash, Marsalis chooses to hide behind this hip moniker.
Yet behind Marsalis’ goulash of jazz, rock, R&B, ’70s funk, reggae, rap and other diverse directions is the sensitivity of an inquisitive musician. Both on the CD and live, Marsalis doesn’t “dumb down” his playing for public consumption , and the new material is strong and memorable.
As the band cooked on a hip-hop, wah-wah-laced groove in “The Blackwidow Blues,” Marsalis got off a great solo on tenor sax that intertwined jazz and R&B in a cogent knot.
On “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Marsalis soared spectacularly on soprano sax, displaying a lovely melodic feeling, matched by Chuck Findley’s Miles Davis-ish muted trumpet, as samples of Maya Angelou’s poem emerged in the background.
There were frequent homages to the ’70s — a transfigured version of Elton John’s “Mona Lisas (and Mad Hatters),” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” done straight.
Sometimes the rap breaks seemed to be thrown in gratuitously. But for the most part, this was a joyous performance.