Marsalis Family Creates New Label

Branford Marsalis is unhappy with the music industry. Unlike many of his colleagues, he intends to do something about it.

In mid-February, the jazz saxophonist and music educator announced his participation in the launch of a new independent record label, Marsalis Music. Based in Cambridge, MA, the new label is a joint venture with his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. The label's focus will be on creating music of substance and lasting value, rather than forgettable pop hits, the younger Marsalis stated. "The consolidation of the record industry into major conglomerates has turned the business into a mega-hit pop music machine with a very short-term focus," he explained. "Artists who want to be musicians, not marketing creations, have very few places to record anymore. We formed Marsalis Music to provide a real alternative."

The label will also leverage Marsalis' teaching experience (he has taught music at the University of New Orleans, Michigan State University, and San Francisco State University) with a "Marsalis Jam" program that will bring musicians and music lovers together on college campuses. The label's educational program will be directed by Boston Globe jazz critic Bob Blumenthal, who will resign his position with the newspaper on March 1. "We recognize the need to extend these efforts to the community level, where people first learn to play music and develop their musical tastes, and to the broader arena of the arts," Blumenthal stated.

The Marsalis family hopes to nurture creative talent at all levels. "We guarantee that we will give artists the freedom to make great music," Branford asserted. One of the first releases on the new label will be his tribute to legendary artists John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Footsteps of Our Fathers should appear late this summer. Like other Marsalis Music releases, it will be distributed by Boston-based Rounder Records.

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