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Interviews

Don Braden: Harvard Hipster

By Published: January 22, 2007

I tell my students that the most important thing that helps you get work is general professionalism.

Don Braden went to Harvard in 1981 to become a computer programmer and emerged as a new voice on the saxophone. For two decades he's been making a name for himself in the modern jazz world, and he's compiled an impressive resume, working with established masters like [trumpeter] Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, [vocalist] Betty Carter
Betty Carter
Betty Carter
1930 - 1998
vocalist
, [drummers] Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
and Tony Williams
Tony Williams
Tony Williams
1945 - 1997
drums
; then-emerging-talents like [trumpeter] Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
and the Harper Brothers; and as a leader and composer in his own right.

Braden's new album, Workin' (HighNote, 2006) is a showcase not only for his playing skills, but also for his talents as an audio engineer.

Chapter Index

Early Days
The Next Steps: Aebersold and McDonald's
From Harvard To New York City
Working With Wynton
The Time Is Now
The Octet Is Born
Workin'
The Cosby Connection
Giving Back As An Educator


Early Days

All About Jazz: Your bio has the same opening that so many jazz bios have. It says, "At age 13 he started playing tenor sax in middle-school band class, and two years later joined his first professional band." Which is like saying, "At age 13 he built a sand castle, and two years later climbed Mt. Everest." So how did you get from middle school to that first professional gig?

Don Braden: It was a professional band, but still a young professional band. Not super advanced, not doing piles of gigs, but a band of players that did a couple of gigs. We were all young, and I was the youngest guy in the band. So I joined it and it was cool, but I was still a baby. The good news is that I progressed quickly because I was a pretty serious practicer, and I was able to make good progress, especially for the time I'd been playing. I had help from the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp that I attended the next summer, and I had a teacher in Louisville [KY]. So with all that I made good progress and was able to hold my own, but it was challenging to be sure.

AAJ: Talk about being a diligent practicer, because I think a lot of people who pick up a horn put it down again when they realize how much time it's going to take to be really good. What was your inspiration to practice?

DB: It was very easy. I made it fun for myself by using the radio. Ninety percent of my practicing was done to the radio—I just turned it on and started jamming. Because of that, I enjoyed it so much that the saxophone was in my hands regularly, and I was practicing my sound without really knowing what I was doing. I was practicing my expressive qualities, and also dealing with pretty hard keys, because most of the stuff was rock and funk and they were in hard keys. It was good for my ears, too.

AAJ: Give me a few examples of what was coming out of your radio.

DB: This was the '70s. It was the Rolling Stones, Earth Wind and Fire, the Brothers Johnson, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, this kind of stuff. I was just finding the notes and playing along and having fun.

AAJ: How did you get awakened to jazz?

DB: After I went to jazz camp, I had a pretty good idea of what jazz was. Before that, my discovery of jazz was through the radio. Mostly through a show called Jazz Live—an NPR show back in the '70s hosted by [pianist] Dr. Billy Taylor. That stuff was harder for me to play along with. I was listening to it, but I couldn't play it. After I went to jazz camp, the classical band director said, "We have a little stage band, and we play some jazz stuff." That band played for basketball games and stuff like that. My real introduction into jazz was playing with that group. I was already improvising at a basic level. So the combination of stage band, the radio and the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp created the environment for me to learn jazz, practice it, and have fun. It was all fun for me. I would walk in the door from school, get my horn out and practice.


The Next Steps: Aebersold and McDonald's

AAJ: Talk some more about your Aebersold experience.

DB: Jamey Aebersold is one of the great jazz educators. He's from New Albany, Indiana, right across the river from Louisville. In those days, he ran five jazz camps, including one on the West Coast, one in Colorado, one in Louisville, one in Elmhurst Illinois. He helped me by providing the bedrock for my jazz education. He showed me what the scales were and what cords meant.

AAJ: Thousands of people have played along with an Aebersold record, but you're talking about actually studying with the man himself?

DB: I didn't actually study with him much, but he ran the camp. I studied with people like [saxophonist] Dave Liebman, [pianist] Hal Galper, and people like that. I never got to actually settle down and study with Jamey, other than asking him questions over the years that I've known him. I worked in his office for a while stuffing envelopes, and I would pick his brain, too.

AAJ: After the camp, were you hooked on jazz?

DB: Absolutely. In those days, I bought all these records with [drummer] Elvin Jones, [saxophonist] John Coltrane, all these guys. I'd already been into Freddie Hubbard's CTI records and [saxophonist] Grover Washington and a bunch of cats from the funk-jazz of the day. I learned from Spyro Gyra and [saxophonist] Dave Sanborn as well as the straight-ahead guys.

AAJ: And then you got a chance to be part of another prestigious national institution—the McDonald's All-American High School Jazz Band and Marching Band. How did you get into those?

DB: That's a good question. How did I get into those? [laughs] There was an application and I sent a tape in. I made a tape with a Jamey Aebersold record. Being a techno-geek guy all my life, I owned decent rudimentary recording equipment, even in those days. I made a pretty decent sounding demo, which was pretty funny, because the director called me up and said, "We lost your tape, why don't you play for us over the phone?" So I played for them, and they accepted me. They told me later, "We didn't lose your tape; we wanted to make sure it was you." They thought I'd gotten a ringer, some professional—not that it was that great, but they thought it was a higher level than a high school kid could do, which I thought was pretty cool.

AAJ: How did that band work? Where did you go?

DB: We went to New York [City] for a week for rehearsals. We did a gig at Carnegie Hall with [trumpeter] Maynard Ferguson as the special guest. Then we did the Macy's Parade. It was really hip—a bunch of kids, everybody serious. We did a little jazz band recording, which I think I still have somewhere on cassette tape. We did three or four tunes. It worked out great for me, because I won a saxophone on that trip. My first saxophone that I owned, I won from being, I guess, an all-around decent guy. Being helpful, having a good attitude. So that worked out great.

AAJ: What model was that first horn?

DB: It was a Yamaha. An intermediate horn that Yamaha had provided because they were a sponsor of the band.


From Harvard To New York City

AAJ: So this was in the '70s. In 1981 you got into Harvard, the typical jazz musician path. Did you go there to study engineering?

DB: I started off pre-med, but I shifted to computers when I found out that I wasn't very good at chemistry. I was better at computers. That worked out well, because it was really fun for me. It laid the groundwork for the way my professional career has gone, even though I didn't have a serious premonition about using computers. I did enjoy it a lot. I kept playing all during Harvard. In time, that developed into a conflict because I really wanted to play but I didn't know what that meant professionally. I'd done a lot of gigs, but I had no clue about how to make a living at it. I can't say I had a clue about how to make a living as a computer programmer, either, but I figured I'd just get a job and work for somebody and make a paycheck.

My time at Harvard was great, except that as I got more heavily into music, I did eventually take some time off at Harvard to figure out what my path would be. I came to New York on my year off, and I got so much work that I never made it back to Harvard. Within a year, I hooked up with the Harper Brothers, then Betty Carter, then Wynton Marsalis. I had momentum, and just never managed to get back.

AAJ: You've just done another classic abridging of your life. Let's fill in some blanks. You leave Harvard, go to New York, and then hook up with several jazz legends. How did those connections come about?

DB: The great thing about New York in those days—it's true now, but especially in those days—there was really a "scene," and by that I mean there were places that cats hung. That's true now, but less so for guys my age. In those days, I hung out at the Blue Note. Everybody used to go there for the after-hours session. I'd make a daily trek down there from my apartment in Washington Heights. I'd hit the clubs in Harlem with people like [organist] Dr. Lonnie Smith—place where I could hang that were close to my house. Then I'd take the subway down to the Blue Note. Everybody was hanging out there, so I met a pile of cats. I met the Harper Brothers there. Philip and Winard were hanging there, and Winard was working with Betty Carter at the time. So it was a matter of good proximity to the cats—sitting in enough times and having people hear that I was growing. When [saxophonist] Ralph Moore left the Harper Brothers band in 1985 or '86, they hired me.

AAJ: So how long was it from your arrival until your first steady gig in New York?

DB: There weren't any real steady gigs. The Harpers Brothers thing happened by late '85, and I got to New York in March, so it was about six months. My first gig was in May with a trombone player who was working hard like everybody else. He hired me to work with him, and then came the Blue Note and the Harper Brothers. I used to also do some gigs with Dr. Lonnie Smith in New York and New Jersey. None of it was paying any real money, but they were good gigs to do and great experience to pick up.

AAJ: How were you keeping body and soul together during this time?

DB: The apartment was cheap that I was living in, so my expenses were low. I got the apartment because while I was at Harvard, I hooked up with [pianist] John Lewis's son, who was one year younger than me, and we became friends. So his father arranged for my first apartment in New York. It was a room in a four-bedroom apartment. Then about a year later, I picked up a part-time computer gig with a Harvard guy who was introduced to me by a friend of mine. I did part-time computer work the whole time I lived in New York—from '86 to '95. I worked as a part-time computer programmer, although sometimes it was full-time or double-full-time, depending on what the project was. So between the little gigs and the computer work, I was able to keep everything going.


Working With Wynton

AAJ: When did you first get introduced to Wynton?

DB: When I was hanging out with the Harpers, Betty Carter became interested in jazz education and in expanding her band a bit. A few things happened at that time. The Harper Brothers and myself became part of Betty's band. [Drummer] Winard was already in the band, and she invited [trumpeter] Philip and I to join. We also made a record with her, Look What I Got (Verve, 1988), which was her first record on Verve. Plus she started her Jazz Ahead program at that same time. Philip Harper and I were the first students. My first gig with Betty Carter was in 1986, and it happened that Wynton Marsalis was there. I had cold-called him in late 1985 when I first got to New York City and said, "Hey man, my name is Don Braden and I'd like to play with you." The reason I did that was because I was bold, and I'd learned that boldness is a highly advantageous way to go, if you want to get somewhere.

AAJ: He's a household name now. Was calling as daunting in 1985 as it would be today?

DB: Wynton was the hottest thing around in 1985. He was super-hot. I had all his records; I knew all of that stuff. This was during college, and my playing level was getting up there. So when I called him, I was able to discuss things intelligently with him. Not that I knew the music on the level that he did, but I was able to have a discussion with him having really checked out his records. And I really thought I could do it. It was a bold thing to do. He was on the cover of Downbeat and selling out places. But it made an impression on him, because he entertained my enthusiasm, which I thought was very generous of him. And when he came to hear me with Betty, I think he could hear that I had some potential.

AAJ: Were you playing with him while you were also playing with Betty?

DB: There was some overlap, but the Betty Carter thing didn't turn into a whole lot of gigs—maybe 10 or 15 or 20. Then I had to tell Betty that I couldn't make any more gigs for a while, because I was going out with Wynton. She understood that, and I was able to rejoin her for a while after I went with Wynton. That's when we did the record. We did sessions from '86 to '88. It came out in 1988.

AAJ: And it won a Grammy. You were with Wynton for about seven months?

DB: Yeah, and that was mostly on the road. We played a few gigs in New York, but it was mostly on the road.

AAJ: Who was in that band then?

DB: It was [bassist] Bob Hurst, [drummer Jeff] "Tain" [Watts], [pianist] Marcus Roberts, and Wynton and myself.

AAJ: So you went out with Wynton for seven months, and then ended up touring the world with guys like drummers Tony Williams and Roy Haynes. Was this because by that time you'd established yourself and it became easier to get work?

DB: I'm not quite sure. I tell my students that the most important thing that helps you get work is general professionalism—competent playing; a good personality, being cool and friendly and not egotistical; showing up on time and looking good; learning the music and memorizing everything—it all goes into it. And the whole thing of networking and meeting folks and building your reputation. All that is really key. You have to bring a lot of energy to everything that you do. And luck is part of it.

It happened that I was with Wynton, and that was a high-profile situation, and I sounded pretty good most of the time. So people thought, "Braden was with Wynton, so he can probably handle Tony Williams' band." And then once I was in that band for a while people thought, "He can probably handle Freddie Hubbard." For example, Tony Williams' manager felt that I could handle Freddie Hubbard's band, and she was the one who called me in February of 1989.

AAJ: And you stayed with him until 1991?

DB: That's right.

The Time Is Now

AAJ: When did you record you first record, The Time Is Now (Criss Cross, 1991)?

DB: About a year before I left Freddie, I got approached by Criss Cross. Someone had canceled and they had the date available, and they'd been hearing about me—maybe from [pianist] Benny Green. He'd already recorded a record for Criss Cross, and he and I were in Freddie's band together. So when Criss Cross approached me, I had a week to get the session together. The first band I was in with Freddie was [drummer] Carl Allen, [bassist] Christian McBride, Benny Green, myself and Hub. My first record had Benny, Carl, Christian, and then Benny recommended [trumpeter] Tom Harrell, who I didn't know at the time. I knew who he was, of course, but I didn't know him. So they pulled him in and he was killin,' naturally. We had a rehearsal and then did the date in a day.

AAJ: What was the music on that first record?

DB: A combination of my music and then some standards. I did an arrangement of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise." I did "Butterfly," which is a Herbie Hancock tune. We did several originals—most of them came from my college days. And I wrote some newer things, including "The Time Is Now," which became the title of the record. I'd written one suite when I was in college, a suite about the stars that had a theme associated with each planet. I borrowed from that. The vibe was similar to the Freddy Hubbard vibe, because that's what that group had been doing. So it was that kind of modern sound and language.

AAJ: When was the last time you listened to that record?

DB: It's been a while, now that I think about it. Of course, back in those days I listened to it quite a lot, but it might have been five years now.

AAJ: Some people can't listen to their own stuff and some can.

DB: I love to listen to my stuff, because it was a great learning experience, and it makes me feel good. Not everything about it makes me feel good, but you know... [laughs] At the time I started recording, I was 27 or 28, so I'd been through the insecurities that I faced in Wynton's band and the insecurities that I faced going through Tony's band. By the time I got to Freddie Hubbard's band, I'd worked through the bulk of the major issues. By the time I started recording, I was pretty listenable. The stuff before that, the demos—even those were okay, because I'd listened so much to the masters and I was around so many serious cats that I was lucky. It was never painful to listen to.

AAJ: When did you start to step out as a leader?

DB: It took a while. The first serious runs were in the middle '90s, after I'd done a few records. When I got signed to RCA, I was able to work with my octet a little bit, and I'd done quite a number of quartet gigs. When I had a number of records out, I was able to land gigs, even if I was just a single act with a rhythm section. I did quite a few tours in Europe in the middle '90s with bassist Joris Teepe, a longtime partner of mine. We did a lot of tours in Holland starting in about '93 or so. My octet was the first band at the Jazz Standard [in NYC] when that opened. I worked at the Iridium a number of times.


The Octet Is Born

AAJ: Why did you put together the octet, and what were the financial realities of getting work?

DB: I wasn't able to keep it working that much because of those financial realities, especially with some of those names in there. The octet sound—the sound of all those horns—was something I really got into back in that period, and I'm getting back into it now. I love all the harmony. That's really one of my favorite things about music, the harmony, both in terms of blends and also in terms of chord progressions. I'm a big fan of big bands. I love all kinds of harmonies, which is interesting because I'm also a fan of open improvisation, which is a whole different thing.

My records had been adding more horns every time. My first record was a quintet, my second was a sextet, and my third, After Dark (Criss Cross, 1993) was a septet—four horns and a rhythm section. That record has strong writing based on the harmony of the horns and the chord progressions of the tunes. It reflects a big part of what makes my wheels turn and what gets my juices flowing.

The octet was the next logical step to get further and further into harmony. I worked two solid months on writing that record [The Voice Of The Saxophone (RCA, 1997)], working 12 hours a day. I'd play the saxophone for a couple hours in the morning, then I'd hit the computer and the keyboard and write for the rest of the day. That was before I had my daughter, so I wrote all day and hung out with my wife for a minute and practiced, and that was the cycle for about two months. It was a tremendous learning experience, and the joy of being in the octet and hearing it around me was tremendous. But it was just too expensive for plane tickets and hotel rooms, and my career wasn't to the point where I could pull in the kind of money to keep that going regularly.

AAJ: You found what seems to be a little more common way to fund that project, which is a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation and Chamber Music America.

Workin'

AAJ: Let's talk about your most recent album, Workin' (HighNote, 2006). It was recorded at a really fantastic club called Cecil's, which is owned by your friend and musical partner, drummer Cecil Brooks III. Will you talk about the club and then talk about the new record?

DB: Cecil's is great. It's in its third year now. I can remember when Cecil and I were sitting in Connecticut at the Litchfield Summer Jazz Camp, which I run, and we were talking and he said, "Man, I'm going to start a jazz club." And when he says something with that level of seriousness, that means he's going to do it. I've known him long enough now to know that he does what he says he's going to do. And sure enough, he was able to pull it off. I helped him a bit at the beginning on a few different levels, both physically and financially, just to help get things going. I ran cables and the whole drill, as a number of us did. The main thing about Cecil's is that he's configured it as a place where musicians can be openly creative. That's what his objective is.

AAJ: Not only does he own and run the club, but he's also the drummer on Workin'.

DB: He's been my drummer for years. He's on five or six of my records now. He's been working with me since the octet days, and he made some of those tours in Holland. We have quite a long history of recording and gigs together. He's made a lot of gigs with me in Spain, Germany, Holland and the United States. He's also been my record producer over the years, and he hooked me up with HighNote, my current label. He's been an influence and artistic collaborator, both musically and as a friend and with the club.

AAJ: And he's killin' as a drummer.

DB: He's a great all-around musician and businessman. I've learned a lot from him. The new record was recorded live at Cecil's. We formed the Organic Trio there, and I did a lot of gigs there with the group. This is a documentation of one of our gigs, of us doing our thing.

AAJ: Talk about organist Kyle Koehler.

DB: Kyle's from Philadelphia. He's been working with Lou Donaldson. That's been his main gig for a number of years. He also subs for Dr. Lonnie Smith on various gigs. He's worked with Dave Stryker—lots of different things. He's one of the "on call" organ players. He's really developed his sense of harmony, which is one of the great things for me. Most jazz organ players are not really versed in the language of modern jazz harmony. They can do it, but they're not comfortable. It took Kyle a little bit of time, but after a pretty short time he managed to get into it. It's been four years now, and he's really gotten into my compositions and the way I write. That's worked out well. I assume it's helped him in terms of his own sense of breadth, but in terms of my gigs, he's gotten to the point where he can be extremely effective. There aren't that many organ players that can do that.

AAJ: Why an organ trio?

DB: I'm not sure. It's just something that evolved naturally. We'd said, "Let's try this." Then it was, "Hey, this feels great." So we did it some more, and four years later, we're still doing it. It just so happens that we formed a trio. It works musically and it works financially or practically because it's a small group and it's easy to move around with it. It kind of happened without my even realizing it.

AAJ: Is it true at all to say that this group gives you a chance to dig back into some of that music that was on the radio when you were first figuring out how to play the saxophone? The new record opens up with an Earth, Wind & Fire track.

DB: No question. Although the organ sound per se doesn't really inspire that—it has more to do with my own desire to do that music. I've been touching on various pop tunes over the years—Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan. I've recorded a couple Stevie Wonder tunes.

AAJ: You did a whole album based around contemporary standards [Contemporary Standards Ensemble (Double-Time, 2000)].

DB: That's correct—Steely Dan and those kinds of things. That's part of my history. So this is a full-circle thing, but the organ trio is not necessarily the catalyst. It just so happens that this particular group gives rise to a certain approach to that music, but that music is in my vocabulary. It's in my heart and my soul. It's right in my very foundation. To me, those are my standards. Earth, Wind & Fire; Stevie Wonder; Brothers Johnson; Steely Dan—that really is my era. That's the music I'm looking to express myself with. However I can adapt that for organ trio, I do.

AAJ: One thing that jumped out at me about this record is that it's really well recorded. And I noticed that it's engineered and mastered by some guy named Don Braden. You should keep using him.

DB: Right. [laughs]

AAJ: One of the places where that most comes through is on your tune "She's On Her Way." The clarity of the sound allows every piece of the emotion to come through. It must have been a great experience for folks in the club.

DB: One thing I learned years and years ago from Tony Williams and Freddie Hubbard is the real necessity of emotional honesty. Tony and Freddie just put their hearts out there. All of them did—Betty Carter, Roy Haynes. So I've really prioritized that. On The Fire Within (RCA, 1999), I really synchronized myself with my emotionality. I was really acknowledging my emotions and saying, "Whatever is within me, let it come out." By the time I got to a live performance of "She's On Her Way," which is for my daughter, that part of it takes care of itself for me.

As an engineer, I still have tons of gear in my house—analog gear, tons and tons of tapes, digital gear. I've been through the process, recording projects of many types, so I can bring that experience as well. I bring all that to what I do, and I spend a lot of hours trying to preserve and express—from an audio standpoint—that sense of vibrancy that we get when we play. That's the beauty of having control of my own mixing and mastering. Plus I have a mentor, Paul Wycliffe, who's one of the greatest engineers on the planet. And I have Tommy Tedesco, who owns a recording studio in Paramus, New Jersey. So I have the help of a couple professional engineers.

The Cosby Connection

AAJ: In addition to your performing career, you also have a rich life as an educator and as a TV composer. Let's start on the TV side and talk about some of your experiences there.

DB: I've been really blessed as a composer with really interesting, fun projects. The TV thing came because I was playing with [trumpeter] Art Farmer at the Village Vanguard and [saxophonist and composer] Benny Golson walked in. We started talking and we became friends, and he recommended me to Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby had asked him [Golson] to do the music for his new show, Cosby, when that first went into production in about 1995 or so. Benny Golson took me to Bill Cosby and basically said, "Hey man, check this guy out." So I ending up producing a session for Dr. Cosby, which worked out well, and then I produced another session, which worked out well, and they hired me. Happily for me, I'd done a lot of writing already. I was able to write fairly quickly. It's not like film scoring, which is a whole other kind of thing. I got into that later.

It was fun. All the aesthetics that I'd been dealing with applied to the music that Bill Cosby needed—it was upbeat, kind of comical. That worked out pretty well. I did four years of that, and then I got songs on other TV shows like [Cosby's] Little Bill. Then I got hired by Nickelodeon to work on Fatherhood, a cartoon that needed wall-to-wall music. That was a serious situation there. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, we did that music. That was serious film scoring—20 minutes of music per show and all like Mickey Mouse. Very detailed film scoring with a classical aesthetic. It wasn't like Little Bill or Charlie Brown where you could swing out, this was detailed stuff.

AAJ: And you were writing for what kind of ensemble?

DB: That was for an expanded jazz ensemble with horns, and also a classical string and woodwinds group—like a little orchestra. We did most of it with MIDI, and added things like live horns over the top. Some shows use real orchestras, but they have lots of money. Ninety percent of the shows are done with MIDI. We used as many side guys as we could.

I'm working on a composition project for a conservatory in Holland. I'm going to teach for a week there. This is my second symphonic jazz session there. Myself and Joris Teepe were commissioned to write a piece. I've been tweaking things every day. I just completed the full orchestral score for that, and now I'm trying to finish up another piece for that same gig. The gig is in about 10 days. The thing Joris and I co-composed is this large, world-beat kind of thing.

Now I'm working on a jazz ballad. I told them I'd try to do it, but I didn't think I'd get it done, but now I think I've almost got it done. If we can't play it for the Queen [of the Netherlands], I'll get it played in some other situation. I'm learning the craft of writing for orchestra, which is a huge craft. Huge. Everything that I do, every day that I work on this, I'm learning how to deal with orchestration details.

Giving Back As An Educator

AAJ: You segued right into this, so let's talk about your education projects, starting with the Litchfield Summer Jazz Camp.

DB: I just finished my eighth or ninth year doing the Litchfield jazz camp. It's been growing every year, and I'm very proud of it because I've been running into my students everywhere I go. I was just in Colorado a couple of days ago, and I ran into one of my students there. It's really hip to see the impact the summer music camp has.

It's a full-circle thing for me, because as I said before, some of my most important early information came from the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp. So I bring that thought process to the Litchfield jazz camp and try to provide these kids with as much info as I can because I know how important it can be. When you go study engineering in college, you might not get a jazz theory course, but went I went to Jamey's camp I got a college-level theory course. And now we bring the same thing, except that it's [pianist] David Berkman. We had Dave Liebman this past year. Litchfield can get pretty intense. It's a real serious undertaking.

AAJ: What ages are the students?

DB: We have them as young as 11 or 12, and as old as 70. The bulk are high school, but we usually have a number of adults. I also run a "jazz for teens" program here at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. We've got seven or eight combos, and we're doing a CD in a couple of weeks. It's our fourth CD, and we have a concert every year. That's for 12- to 17-year-olds.

I took a year off this year so I could write. I'll probably go back next year. Like so many artists, I can get trapped in just working and not creating, so I took a year off to create and it's paid off. I'm just finishing the commissioned pieces, and I'm going to write the next record in the next two months. I have a lot more writing to do.

Selected Discography

Don Braden, Workin (HighNote, 2006)
Don Braden, The New Hang (HighNote, 2004)
Dave Liebman, Latin Genesis (Whaling City Sound, 2002)
Don Braden, Brighter Days (HighNote, 2001)
Don Braden, Contemporary Standards Ensemble (Double-Time, 2000)
Don Braden, The Fire Within (RCA, 1999)
Don Braden, The Voice Of The Saxophone (RCA, 1997)
Don Braden, The Open Road (Double-Time, 1996)
Don Braden, Organic (Columbia, 1995)
Don Braden, Landing Zone (Landmark, 1994)
Winard Harper, Be Yourself (Epicure, 1994)
Don Braden, After Dark (Criss Cross, 1993)
Don Braden, Wish List (Criss Cross, 1991)
Don Braden, The Time Is Now (Criss Cross, 1991)
Betty Carter, Look What I Got (Verve, 1988)


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