Don Braden

(High Note)
Don Braden - Workin'

Review by Brad Walseth

Don Braden may be best known for his work with television funnyman Bill Cosby, but his musical talents go far beyond this arena. Having replaced Branford Marsalis in Wynton's combo, and having appeared with Betty Carter, Roy Haynes, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, and the Mingus Big Band it is clear that his abilities on the tenor sax are formidable. Braden's latest release is in a live organ trio setting recorded at drummer Cecil Brooks III's nightclub in Orange, NJ. "Workin'" features Braden playing with Brooks on drums and Kyle Koehler on organ and is an impressively enjoyable release indeed.

This is a warm and relaxed set captured on disc that makes it feel as if the listener is enjoying an evening out at Cecil's Jazz Club. Braden is smooth (in the best sense) and has killer chops, Koehler plays an unusually supportive organ, and Brooks has a big propulsive style on drums. In Koehler's case, it is a pleasure to hear an organist who doesn't overwhelm. Rarely do you hear an organ player who plays with such subtlety and taste. Not that he doesn't have mad skills - his solos are inventive and energetic, but he knows when and where to display his talents. Brooks too is an amazing musician. In an era when most drummers sound pretty similar, this player has found his own sound on the drums. His big, booming drum sound provides a big band element to a small setting that is unique and welcome.

But the hero of the date is Braden himself. Whether lingering effortlessly on ballads like the original "She's On Her Way" and the Aretha Franklin R&B classic "The Closer I Get to You," or burning down the town on "Where There's Smoke" and "The Vail Jumpers," Braden's playing is a model of tasteful energy and disciplined brilliance. The saxman's exceptional talents may come through most brightly on "Brighter Days" - another Braden original that highlights the composer's writing skills as well. Musician, composer, and educator, Braden is a man of many talents. "Workin'" is not only a great introduction to the artist for those unfamiliar with Braden's work, but is a charming opportunity to hear him play in a setting with two fellow musicians who compliment him immeasurably in presenting this most pleasurable recording to the listening public.

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