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Former “Tonight Show” bandleader Branford Marsalis said he “despised” Ja

September 28, 1995 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Former ``Tonight Show″ bandleader Branford Marsalis said he ``despised″ Jay Leno. But he says he didn’t really mean it.

``The job of musical director I found out later was just to kiss the a-- of the host, and I ain’t no a--kisser,″ said Marsalis, one of the world’s premier saxophonists, said in Wednesday’s Indianapolis Star and News.

Marsalis, who left the show in January about halfway through his five-year contract, said he was expected to play along with Leno’s jokes, even when they bombed. He said he couldn’t do it.

``Then it became, `Oh, he’s surly. He hates his boss,‴ Marsalis said.

Did he?

``Oh, I despised him,″ Marsalis said.

Through spokeswoman Annie Ohayon, the musician said Wednesday that he was speaking sarcastically when he said that.

The published comments about Leno, Ohayon’s statement said, were ``not the way he feels about Jay. ... As far as he is concerned, this was a ludicrous comment which he made with a great deal of sarcasm, in response to what was a ridiculous question.″

Replied the interviewer, Marc Allen: ``I took him at his word and I don’t hear anything, going back and listening to the tape, that makes me think he was being sarcastic.″

Leno had no comment Wednesday, said an NBC spokesman in Burbank, Calif.