Southerners: Branford Marsalis

This jazzman keeps steady in his music and his life.
Allison Barnes

Family and Food

Growing up in New Orleans, Branford and his brothers used spontaneous tunes to call each other’s attention.

“Where y’at lil’ Branford? Where y’at lil’ Wynton? What’s happening lil’ Kevin?” Branford sings a ditty, somewhat talking it through, while playing with his PDA. “All of us boys used to do that.”

The city and its roots remain important influences in his life, clearly shown in his music as well as the not-so-modest culinary skills he gleaned from his mom, Dolores.

“I’m a Creole boy,” he says. “I cook all kinds of things―red beans and rice, jambalaya, and gumbo―the good stuff.”

Branford’s Best
We’ve put some of Branford’s best tracks into a special iTunes playlist.

1. “Everything Happens to Me”
2. “Sir Roderick, the Aloof”
3. “Sidney in Da Haus”
4. “Yes and No, Random Abstract”
5. “I Thought About You”
6. “Just One of Those Things”
7. “Seabreeze”
8. “Steppin’ On the Blues”
9. “Royal Garden Blues”
10. “Solstice”
11. “Maria”
12. “Three Little Words”
13. “Gutbucket Steepy”
14. “B’s Paris Blues”
15. “Parable”

Listen to and purchase the songs, including Branford’s latest album, Braggtown, through iTunes.

Branford Marsalis
“Children need to be led,” says Branford of why he chose to raise his kids in a value-rich Southern atmosphere.

Grammy winner Branford Marsalis considers his Southern milieu his muse, right down to the accents.

“The syncopation and rhythm of the language has a singsong quality,” says the jazz saxophonist and classical musician. “The Southern influence is there in whatever I do.”

Branford appears as cool and relaxed as a jazzman should. That’s why in 2002 he traded the current of busy Northern cities to savor the steady rhythm of Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and three kids.

“Carolina is close enough to New York for me,” the New Orleans native says with a soft chuckle. “Moving here was a return to certain priorities.”

Keeping a musical tie in the community, Branford inspires fledgling musicians as an adjunct professor at North Carolina Central University. After Hurricane Katrina, he and Harry Connick, Jr., joined with Habitat for Humanity to build housing for musicians in New Orleans.

“No matter how aggressive or modern our music sounds, we’re still Southerners, and that’s always going to be,” he says."Southerners: Branford Marsalis" is from the September 2008 issue of Southern Living.