All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

1

Braxton Brothers: Higher

Jim Trageser By

Sign in to view read count
It's interesting how certain musical styles become punching bags for the critics. Disco grew out of R&B and funk in the mid-1970s—yet by 1979 it was so despised in many quarters that the Chicago White Sox had a near-riot on their hands when they opened Comiskey Park for "Disco Demolition Night" during a double-header against the Detroit Tigers. So many fans showed up (admission was 98 cents if you also brought a disco record to be destroyed between games) that security was overwhelmed and the second game canceled after the disco-haters overran the field.

Among jazz purists, "smooth jazz" is nearly as hated as disco was among hard rock fans 40 years ago. And yet, "smooth jazz" is nothing more than the continued development of fusion—the attempt to meld rock and soul elements into a jazz structure that grew out of Miles Davis' electric forays of the late 1960s. Many jazz fans who practically swoon over a classic Ray Charles side, who have a near-complete collection of Teddy Pendergrass, or who think Otis Redding should be measured alongside Johnny Adams as a soul-jazz singer, will nevertheless dismiss smooth jazz out of hand.

It is an often incongruous hostility.

The Braxton Brothers—reedman Wayne and bassist Nelson—lean more toward the soul side of the smooth jazz equation, but have the chops of mainstream jazz players. These guys, and the session players they brought on for their self-released "Higher," can flat out play. Wayne has a gorgeous tone, whether he's playing tenor, alto or soprano sax. And Nelson could sit in on bass for any top funk combo—Earth, Wind & Fire, Ohio Players, The Commodores.

Most of the tracks here are of an instrumental R&B flavor. A more polished Parliament Funkadelic vibe shines through "A Stronger Love." The first single from the album, "The Only Woman In the World," also has a late 1970s / early '80s soul sheen to it. "Beauty" opens with a Caribbean lilt, a touch of reggae to the beat. And the closing track, "I'll Be Here," hews to a 1990s UK neo-soul groove.

There are a couple of areas where "Higher" seems a bit flat. The first is the lack of a knock-out hit song. The melodies are all pleasant enough, but none are likely to get stuck in your head—there isn't a killer hook to be found here. George Benson and Chuck Mangione proved decades ago that you don't need vocals for a hit song. Compounding the lack of memorable melodies is the fact that the arrangements are all quite similar—every song is played in a slightly up-tempo beat, with bright sax and guitar out front. It all begins to sound a bit the same after awhile.

But the overall experience of "Higher" is of a well-produced, lovingly played album of improvised instrumental music.

Track Listing: The Only Woman In the World; You Care About Me; Back in My Arms; Higher; Something in My Heart; Because of You; A Stronger Love; Beauty; Where I Wanna Be; Just to Be Loved; What Would I Do.

Personnel: Nelson Braxton: electric and upright bass, lead bass, keyboards, percussion, drum programming, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; Wayne Braxton: alto saxphone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, drug programming, background vocals; Chris Camozzi: electric and acoustic guitars; Errol Cooney: acoustic guitar; Kay-Ta: electric guitar; Andy Quinn: electric guitar; Ryan Parrino: electric guitar; Joelibeck Neisler-Lebron: background vocals.

Title: Higher | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Braxton Productions

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Higher

Higher

Braxton Productions
2018

buy
 

Rollin'

Les Disques Victo
2004

buy
 

Now and Forever

Windham Hill Records
2000

buy

Related Articles

Read Return to the Future CD/LP/Track Review
Return to the Future
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Telepathy CD/LP/Track Review
Telepathy
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read The Whole Thing Is Just There CD/LP/Track Review
The Whole Thing Is Just There
by John Bricker
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante CD/LP/Track Review
Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rogue Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rogue Star
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read "Ravensburg" CD/LP/Track Review Ravensburg
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "No Matter Where Noir" CD/LP/Track Review No Matter Where Noir
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 17, 2017
Read "Stillness & Sirens" CD/LP/Track Review Stillness & Sirens
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 17, 2018
Read "Live at Big Apple in Kobe" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Big Apple in Kobe
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 26, 2018
Read "Magdalena" CD/LP/Track Review Magdalena
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: July 13, 2018
Read "Wishing On The Moon" CD/LP/Track Review Wishing On The Moon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 13, 2018