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Photo: Jet Magazine (June 22, 1995)With so much getting linked and re-linked about Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show, I started thinking about the brief tenure of Tonight Show bandleader Branford Marsalis. After a little bit of digging, I found some quotes from Marsalis in his dwindling days on the show:

"I was thrown under a microphone and expected to have a rapport with a man I really didn't know. It takes time," Marsalis told [music magazine BAM]. "If you watch the show now, the lines are drawn and Jay and I have our things," he noted.

"It will never be what Dave [Letterman] and Paul [Shaffer] have because I'm not the kind of person that's gonna kiss Jay's ass and say everything he does is right," he said. Jet Magazine (Dec. 26, 1994)

 Then 10 months later:

"In an interview with Marc D. Allen of the Indianapolis Star and News, Marsalis said, 'The job of musical director I found out later was just to kiss the ass of the host, and I ain't no ass kisser. I didn't realize that at the time. I thought we had this rapport, that would employ a Black sensibility.'" Jet Magazine (Oct. 15, 1995)

But flash-forward to the present, and Patton Oswalt wisely and definitively sums it up with Scott Aukerman on Comedy Death Ray Radio:

Conan clearly wants the show because there are things he's dying to do with his writing staff, and on the air, and places he wants to take the show. And also beyond Leno and Conan and Letterman are just the people in power at NBC -- What in God's name are you thinking? Conan started off on his 12:30 show, a little awkward, a little weird, and built this amazing thing -- if you just leave him alone. And he's clearly on track to do it with this show. So just hands off. Just let it go."

--Keith Huang

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