WBGO Radar

Don Braden: "Luminosity"

don braden

For Don Braden, Luminosity is more than a catchy album title: it’s a way of life. It captures the essence of how the saxophonist and composer lives and plays.

“I learned early in life that if I project good thoughts, good comes back to me,” says Braden. “So I have consciously chosen to adopt a positive mindset.”

Braden’s new album, an even mix of originals and standards, brims with positivity - his own, as well as what he inspires in others, namely his longstanding Organix Quartet, with Dave Stryker on guitar, Kyle Koehler on organ and Cecil Brooks III on drums.

From the album’s opening title track, an original inspired by John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Brooks’s drums sizzle and set a pace that is is not for the fainthearted.

And yet Organix never lose their balance. They honed their relaxed, sparkling sound at Cecil’s now-closed club in West Orange, and Luminosity is in many ways a testament to the hours they spent together on that bandstand and the easy, intuitive rapport they developed there.

“Our ‘home’ was Cecil’s Jazz Club, where we worked regularly throughout its ten-year history,” Braden recalls. The album was recorded primarily in the studios of Tom Tedesco, who was also Cecil’s house engineer and helped make it one of the great recording clubs in the country.

“Jive Turkey” combines a Jaco Pastorius riff with a relaxed roadhouse feel, a feeling shared on Braden’s “Walkin’ The Walk” and Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin,” which features a duet with alto saxophonist Sherman Irby.

“Do Love Me Do” is a ballad Braden wrote for an episode of the Nickelodeon TV series Fatherhood, which features him on flute, as does “A Whole New World,” an homage to his daughter’s childhood love for the Disney movie Aladdin.

 “Chelsea Bridge” features Braden on solo saxophone, in an arrangement in which he subtly cycles through different intervals (seconds, thirds and fourths) in each iteration, without ever losing sight of Billy Strayhorn’s indelible melody.

Throughout, Luminosity sounds the way Braden lives: positive, relaxed, urbane, erudite, and in the groove. It’s a summa musicalis for a master musician in the prime of his abilities, with much more to give.

  - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

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