Video: Branford Marsalis makes his debut as ‘Tonight Show’ bandleader

Jay Leno’s time with The Tonight Show has come on gone, but it’s worth remembering that New Orleans’ own Branford Marsalis once led the popular late night program’s house band. In fact, Marsalis’ tenure as the show’s original bandleader began 25 years ago today—on May 25, 1992—during Leno’s first episode as permanent host.

While Marsalis had already developed a sterling reputation as a jazz saxophonist and collaborated with massively popular acts like Sting and the Grateful Dead, the Tonight Show gig raised his profile considerably, making him a household name among a national audience that may not have known much about his work with the likes of Art Blakey or his brother Wynton. Marsalis would eventually part ways with The Tonight Show in January 0f 1995, but now seems like a good time to look back at his first episode as bandleader (the video will load right when Marsalis is introduced).

  • sraw

    5 years ago today I partially tore my achilles tendon. I like Branford and his music, but so what? Must we be so obsessed with the past and the fact that every single thing that ever happened is available through our entirely comprehensive archive of it? And media, for lack of anything better or really worthwhile to say, just trot it out to fill space and clutter our heads, Tomorrow will be 25 years and a day – should we take note? What’s the real difference?