Branford Marsalis Starts His Own Label


Branford Marsalis has announced the formation of Marsalis Music, a new record label designed to provide a home for committed creative musicians. The indie label, formed at a time when bottom-line pressures have forced the major labels to drastically reduce or eliminate their jazz roster, is the brainchild of 42-year-old Branford. Collaborating with the saxophonist is his father, pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis.

“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. Artists who want to be musicians, not marketing creations, have very few places to record anymore,” Branford said. “We formed Marsalis Music to provide a real alternative. This is a very exciting time and I am thrilled to be doing this.”

Completing the executive team of the Boston-based label are renowned Boston Globe jazz critic, Bob Blumenthal, and managers, Sherry McAdams and Ann Marie Wilkins. Marsalis Music will be marketed and distributed by another Boston-based company, Rounder Records. “Their mission dovetails so perfectly with our own and we are excited to be working with Branford Marsalis and Marsalis Music,” said John Virant, president and CEO of Rounder. “For over three decades, Rounder has demonstrated its firm commitment to recording and releasing quality music. We welcome this alliance and the new opportunities it presents for all of us.”

A central component of the Marsalis Music vision is the belief that an effective contemporary record label must nurture new audiences as well as its roster of artists. With this in mind, the label plans to serve as a catalyst in the creation of diverse educational and cultural partnerships. “Given Branford’s proven success as a teacher at Michigan State and San Francisco State Universities, we intend to begin with ‘Marsalis Jams,’ which will focus on musicians and listeners at colleges,” Blumenthal said. “But we also 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. It is particularly gratifying to be a part of initiatives so critical to the ongoing health of the music in the company of people as talented and dedicated as Ann Marie, Branford and Sherry.”

Demonstrating his deep personal and financial commitment to the venture, Branford has signed himself to the label. His next record, Footsteps Of Our Fathers, will be among the first releases for the label. More signings will be announced in the near future.

“We hope to make history,” Marsalis said, “but we guarantee that we will give artists the freedom to make great music.”

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July 2022
Sean Jones
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