Of the four musical Marsalis brothers, the oldest, Branford, has ventured farthest from the world of jazz. His stints as the director of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” band and as saxophonist on Sting’s tours caused many jazz purists to lose faith in his commitment to “serious” music. The lyrical intensity of his latest release, “Eternal,” though, will certainly redeem his jazz credibility.

The quartet of longtime bandmates creates a strikingly measured sensitivity on these seven tunes. Joey Calderazzo’s piano only half-answers Marsalis’ saxophone lines, letting in breaths of open space. Eric Revis’ bass lines soften rather accelerate the mood, and Jeff “Tain” Watts uses soft brushwork and an array of cymbals for rhythms that stroll along at an easy pace. Their confident, considered understatement creates a sincere lyricism all its own.

Unlike his earlier work, Marsalis nicely masks the complexity here in cool minimalism. But on each of the seven, rather lengthy tunes (“Eternal” clocks in at 17 minutes), Marsalis also prolongs his soft mood over an extensive range of feelings and musical thoughts. Even when the forward drive drops to a sigh, Marsalis and his quartet never run out of whispered meanings and beautiful intentions.

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