Primarily working outside of the major league jazz spotlight, but not far from it by any means, Anthony Branker is crafting some of today's finest compositionsand has assembled the sextet Ascent to bring them to musical life.
Spirit Songs consists of tunes Branker has written since 1997, performed by a rather formidable unit: saxophonists Antonio Hart and Ralph Bowen, trombonist Clifford Adams, pianist Jonny King, bassist John Benitez and drummer Ralph Peterson. Branker heads the Jazz Studies program at Princeton and is a jazz faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music. He also was trumpeter and assistant musical director of New York's Spirit of Life Ensemble.
There's a rather fine Jazz Messengers feel to this sextet, given its instrumentation and the way the music moves and breathes. Branker allows his soloists ample room to go inside the music and stretch it. His "Sketches of Selim (Miles spelled backwards) is a tribute to Davis. "Mentor turns into an unabashed drum showcase for Peterson. The bouncing, reggae-tinged "Imani (Faith) features an incendiary alto sax solo by Hartand has already shuffled onto my list of the top new jazz compositions of the year. The closer, "J.C.'s Passion, is the composer's artful variation on "Impressions and "So What, with King launching it into high gear with his piano intro.
The lyrical groove of the Spirit Songs project, performed by one mighty fine bop sextet, makes me anxious to hear Branker's other sidehis trumpet playing.
Chant For Peace Eternal; Parris In April; Spirit Song; Sketches of Selim; Imani (Faith); In God's
Hands; Mentor; J.C.'s Passion.
Antonio Hart: alto and soprano saxophone; Ralph Bowen: tenor and soprano saxophone;
Clifford Adams: trombone; Jonny King: piano; John Benitez: bass; Ralph Peterson: drums.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.