Saxophonist Don Braden is all about positivity and sharing the joys of jazz. His ebullient music speaks to his intelligence yet he never falls prey to the jazz-as-intellectual-exercise trap that seems to snare younger musicians and a good amount of his peers. Over the course of his previous albums, Braden's managed to create accessible music built atop the pillars of wit, honesty, swing, and heart. He does it once more on this satisfying date.
The aptly-titled Luminosity
finds Braden working with his Organix Quartet, a group that features guitarist Dave Stryker
and two of the saxophonist's longtime band matesorganist Kyle Koehler
and drummer Cecil Brooks III
. Together, these four deliver music that alternately cooks, calms, struts, and soars. There's a funky, Jaco Pastorius
-inspired number ("Jive Turkey"), a Herbie Hancock
classic that brings alto saxophonist Sherman Irby
into the picture ("Driftin'"), a swinging nod to John Coltrane
's "Giant Steps" ("Luminosity (First Steps)"), a Brazilian-inflected take on an American songbook favorite featuring guest trumpeter Claudio Roditi
("I Could Write A Book"), and a whole lot more.
Braden shows his tender side when he honors Billy Strayhorn
with a solo saxophone performance ("Chelsea Bridge") and when he picks up his alto flute for an original ballad ("Do Love Me Do"), but he never dwells on it. He's just as likely to drop soulful sounds on listeners ("The Time We Shared") or go swinging through a Chick Corea
number ("Bud Powell") as he is to take a balladic path. Through it all, Koehler, Brooks, and Stryker are right there with him, regardless of where he goes. All three are highly capable and classy players who deliver the goods without showboating. Brooks swings with assurance, lays down slick grooves when the music calls for it, and works with more subtle sounds when the temperature is dialed down; Koehler creates a supportive harmonic cushion, delivers stable bass lines, and proves to be an appealing soloist; and Stryker brings a certain level of directness to the music with his inimitable cut-to-the-core-of-things guitar voice. Each of those men have their own gifts to offer, but they're all on the same page here with Braden, delivering music that's optimistic, cheerful, and radiant.
Luminosity; Jive Turkey; Bud Powell; Do Love Me Do; The Time We Shared; I Could Write A Book; Chelsea Bridge; Walkin' The Walk; A Whole New World; Driftin'.
Don Braden: tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute; Kyle Koehler: Hammond organ; Dave Stryker: guitar; Cecil Brooks III: drums; Claudio Roditi: trumpet (7); Sherman Irby: alto saxophone (10).