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Jazz sax man Marsalis on ‘toxic’ collaborations

'Everything I do is a collaboration." Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, dropped in to Toronto to perform a pair of recitals with the classically trained Canadian pianist Andrew Burashko, of Toronto's Art of Time Ensemble. The pair will collaborate on pieces from the classical repertoire, as well as works written by Marsalis. The Globe spoke to the star sax player during a break in rehearsals here.

"We're going to play music. But given the limited time that we have to prepare, we're just trying to come to a musical understanding. It's been great. We've been playing the pieces, and then we talk a little about the piece and then we play it again. Just by playing, you start a meeting of the minds, as opposed to that other style where everybody knows what the tempo is and everybody just plays their thing. Everybody starts and stops at the same time, but the musicians aren't really communicating. That's what we're trying to avoid. Actually, we are avoiding that.

"When you have a chamber piece like this, with sax and piano, or any two-person thing, if the musicians are not communicating it can become really toxic, musically, very quickly. The bigger the ensemble the more you can get away with that narrow, focused kind of playing.

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"It takes a long time to learn how to play with people. That's why I basically play with the same band over and over again. When you start having jam-session bands, you have to pick material that all the other people can play. So, the music becomes more generalized. And when you don't, then you have bands that sound like a lot of those Wayne Shorter records on Blue Note. He's writing this music and the people in the band can't play it. They just survive it."

Marsalis & Burashko, May 24, 8 p.m., $25 to $59. Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W., Toronto; harbourfrontcentre.com or 416-973-4000.

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