Rick Braun knows how to get a crowd rockin'. He's an entertainer that's spent lots of time on the road, backing up everybody from Rod Stewart to WAR to Sade. As a trumpet player, he's got full-throttle energy that carries over into the audience.
With a killer band, Braun brings a certain sound that I can only describe as The Crusaders with trumpet replacing the trombone. It's great party music and allows each member to stretch out a bit and showcase his chops. He was ready to roll at Southern Connecticut State University's Lyman Center, a great theatre with dynamic acoustics.
Guitarist Randy Jacobs stole the show last year and, back by popular demand, put on a stellar performance this time around too. During his solo at the previous show he leapt off the stage ran up the aisle - all the while screaming on guitar - then ran back and did a kung fu flip onto the 4-foot high stage, landed on his feet and didn't miss a note. I looked back to see the audience with their mouths open, saying "What did I just see?" Ha!
Jimmy Roberts is the funky sax man. He toured together with Braun as part of the Rod Stewart band. Braun joked, "We both played 'Do You Think I'm Sexy?' so many times...we're still in therapy." With Braun on trumpet and Roberts on tenor, they create that Crusaders soul jazz sound.
Nathan Phillips on bass, new to the band this year, has funked with the Dazz Band and dazzled us with a spectacular slappin' solo. Rayford Griffin kept the beat going on traps and got a standing ovation for his effort. Mitch Foreman kind of held it all together on keyboards with a flashy style.
But the man of the evening was the trumpet guy. Strolling through the aisles, he played for individual people. They really got a kick out of it. He aims his horn to the sky and blasts away. A gregarious frontman. You don't see alot of horn players with charisma like this.
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Rick Braun's first musical love was the drums. "With a big family and a small house, drums weren't exactly smiled upon," he confides. The trumpet was "a little less painful" for the family members than his other choice, the violin.
In his life, Braun has worked as a sideman, touring with folks like: Rickie Lee Jones, Sade, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Tom Petty, Crowded House, Phoebe Snow and WAR.
As he performs, you can see the seasoning and experience in his playing. He's got funk chops and he wears leather pants. Doesn't quite fit the image of a jazz player, but guess what, he's more than a jazz player.
For an hour and a half, the band kept a tight playlist, sliding from one tune into another. Joking with the crowd in between, we had a good time. Check him out when he comes to your neck of the woods and pick up a copy of his new Warner Brothers release, "Esperanto."
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