One of the most interesting but least-noted stories of recent years has been the resurgence of Branford Marsalis. Originally regarded as at least his brother's equal in talent, a series of lackluster albums and questionable career moves had relegated him to the jazz periphery, seemingly permanently. Yet such recent recordings as "Bloomington" and "The Dark Keys" showed signs of a newfound maturity and focus; and now, in a year in which Wynton is grabbing all the headlines, comes this release, unquestionably Branford's best to date.
One of the most surprising aspects of "Requiem" is its reliance on the Keith Jarrett quartet of the mid-seventies as a model; the CD booklet begins with a Jarrett quote, the disc includes a version of Paul Motian's "Trieste" (originally recorded by the Jarrett Quartet), and such pieces as "Lykief" also clearly show the Jarrett influence. On every cut, the group plays with an individual and collective cohesion that stems from these musicians' long experience with each other. Sadly, this group will never play together again, for this is the last recording Kenny Kirkland made before his death. "Requiem" is, appropriately, dedicated to his memory, and one could wish for no finer epitaph.