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Don Braden: Workin' (2006)

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Don Braden: Workin' How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

A number of potential factors can work against the success of any live jazz recording, despite the fact that the music should in theory always be at its best when captured in such a setting. Such factors, like the kind of form the individual musicians happen to be in on any given night, for example, are irrelevant here; what in essence is captured for posterity is a night when a trio of musicians came together to play.

Tenor saxophonist Don Braden has been around for a few years now, and his work here is evidence of the fact that he has applied himself with no little fervour to the task of establishing his own instrumental voice within the post-bop mainstream. Organist Kyle Koehler sometimes comes across to these ears as an amalgam of the irreplaceable Jimmy Smith, leavened with the less emphatic keyboard approach favoured by the likes of Sam Yahel. Drummer Cecil Brooks has previously figured on record with a rather different trio with Arthur Blythe, and comparison between the two reveals that he's become something of a monster, in the best sense of the term.

"Looking For Her" and "Moving In" feature Braden unaccompanied, and he uses both opportunities to lay his prodigious technique on the listener. In the hands of a less skilled practitioner of the art, this could be forbidding, but Braden seems to know instinctively that all the technique in the world doesn't amount to much if it's not cut with some quality—it might be called "soul," for all of the hazards inherent in that term—that gets to the listener on an entirely different level. There is also a welcome lack of sentimentality in Braden's work, as on "The Closer I Get To You," which reveals his tone as paradoxically hard but supple. The trio is so tight that one might almost imagine they're breathing in unison.

The old adage that live albums have frequently been burdened with is that they can be souvenirs for anyone who attended the actual gig. This is a damn sight more than that. It's a record of a summer night in 2005 in New Jersey when three musicians came together and fashioned themselves some of-the-moment art.

Track Listing: Spoken Introduction By Cecil Brooks III; You Can't Hide Love; Spoken Introduction By Don Braden; Looking For Her; She's On Her Way; Where There's Smoke; Brighter Days; Moving In; The Closer I Get To You; The Vail Jumpers; Feel Like Makin' Love.

Personnel: Don Braden: tenor saxophone; Kyle Koehler: organ; Cecil Brooks III: drums.

Record Label: HighNote Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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