A world-class saxophonist, flutist, composer and educator, Don Braden’s jazz career has spanned over 40 years. He has toured the world with jazz greats Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes, Herbie Hancock and the Hancock Institute, and many others, and has performed in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, Saturday Night Live, Harvard University (where he studied Engineering as an undergrad), and countless jazz festivals and clubs. He has played on over 100 CDs as a sideman and has produced 23 as a leader, the most recent being his critically acclaimed Earth Wind and Wonder and the recently released In the Spirit of Herbie Hancock and Chemiatry, co-led with bassist Joris Teepe.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 20, 1963, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Braden's first exposure to music came from his parents' record collection, and from radio. Although there were no musicians in his family, he showed a strong interest in music early on. At age 13, he started playing tenor sax in middle school band class, and two years later, joined his first professional band — influenced by and performing the music of "contemporary Jazz" groups like The Crusaders. After being introduced to acoustic jazz in high school by band director Ernie Sanders, Braden studied for years with saxophonist Mike Tracy and also attended Jamey Aebersold’s Summer Jazz Workshops. He went on to be chosen first chair for the McDonald's All-American High School Jazz and Marching Bands, and to receive a Yamaha Instrument Award (given to an outstanding All-American Band member).
After his acceptance to Harvard University in 1981, Braden divided his time between studying engineering and performing at jazz clubs around the Boston/Cambridge area and with the Harvard Jazz Bands. In 1984, he took time off from Harvard to more deeply explore jazz (and some engineering) in the “real world” of New York City. While working part-time as a computer programmer, he landed his first gigs with the Harper Brothers Quintet, with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and then with legendary vocalist Betty Carter. After touring with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet for over seven months, he recorded with Betty Carter on her Grammy Award-winning album, "Look What I Got" (Verve-Polygram). Following tours in Europe, Japan and the Americas with Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, and many others, Braden became a member of the Freddie Hubbard Quintet from 1989 to 1991, then the Tom Harrell groups from 1993 through 1997. Since then he has worked with the Mingus Big Band, Kenny Barron, J. J. Johnson, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and many others, as well as with his own groups.