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Take Five With Braxton Cook

Take Five With Braxton Cook
Braxton Cook By

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Meet Braxton Cook:
As a young emerging saxophonist, Braxton Cook has already garnered several honors and accolades. While in high school, he had been honored to be one of 30 other high school musicians selected from a nationwide competition to participate in the 2009 Grammy Jazz ensemble, held during the same week as the Grammy Awards. During his freshman year at Georgetown University, Braxton was selected as NFAA's 2010 YoungARTS Finalist and participated in a fully-paid expense week in Miami, Florida with 150 other Finalists. During his time in Miami, he received the Silver Medal and was selected to participate in another YoungARTS week in New York with other Silver and Gold Medalists.

In the fall of 2011, Braxton transferred from Georgetown University, where he studied English, to the prestigious Juilliard School on the Illinois Jacquet Scholarship to hone his skills as a jazz saxophonist. Since his transition, he was fortunate to share the stage with Wynton Marsalis, Jon Batiste and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Most recently, Braxton became the newest member of trumpeter Christian Scott's band. He toured nationally with his group and in the fall of 2012 went on a three-week international tour with the Christian Scott Sextet as well. The tour allowed Cook to see the world for the fist time and gave him an invaluable learning experience. He was also selected as a semi-finalist in the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, the most prestigious jazz competition in the world. Shortly thereafter, Braxton recorded and released his debut EP, Sketch (Self Produced, 2014).

In his remaining years at The Juilliard School, Braxton will continue to study music privately with his private teachers Ron Blake and Steve Wilson. In addition, he hopes to continue performing regularly with the Christian Scott Sextet as well as his with his own quartet.

Instrument(s):
Alto saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences?
My first saxophone teacher was Paul Carr and he taught me really everything I needed to know as it pertains to improvisation. When I transferred to Juilliard I began to study with Ron Blake and Steve Wilson and the lessons I have learned from them are invaluable.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I first heard Grover Washington Jr. on Bill Wither's "Just the Two of Us." That saxophone solo changed my life. I remember everyone in my family singing along to the saxophone solo and I knew from that moment that I wanted to play the saxophone and I wanted to make people feel like that.

Your sound and approach to music:
My sound is very much rooted in the tradition as well as the soulful approach of Grover Washington Jr. and Cannonball Adderley. In addition, my time in Christian Scott's band has had a large influence on my playing. The fundamental approach that I have now is one that is based on emotion. My goal is to make people feel something. I believe that this approach is a direct result of my upbringing as well as my stint in Christian Scott's band.

Your teaching approach:
My philosophy in teaching is to make sure the students are having fun. Music has always been fun to me and there has always been this curiosity in me that I don't think should ever be squashed in students. I want to cultivate this curiosity in students and guide it.

Your dream band:
I don't have a particular idea band but there are some artists I would love to work with : Roy Haynes, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Herbie Hancock.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
The craziest thing that ever happened to me on the road was one night in Paris. I had a few drinks with a friend and was almost being killed in an alley by some French mobsters that didn't speak any English and clearly hated Americans. Fortunately, they let us go and we got away!

Favorite venue:
My favorite venue in the world is probably Fashing in Stockholm, Sweden.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My debut release Sketch. It's a compilation of all of my original music that accurately reflects all of my influences.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Cannonball Adderley's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Capitol, 1966).

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
One of the most important aspects of artistry is the ability to tell a story. In my music I am trying to show people who I am and I am not afraid to be transparent and vulnerable through my music.

Did you know...
My middle name is Earl.

CDs you are listening to now:
John Coltrane, Coltrane's Sound (Atlantic, 1964);
Brad Mehldau, Ode (Nonesuch, 2012);
Christian Scott, Atunde Adjuah (Concord, 2012);
Charlie Parker, Bird at St. Nicks (Ojc, 1991);
Andre Benjamin, The Love Below (La Face, 2003).

Desert Island picks:
Grover Washington Jr. Winelight (Elektra, 1980);
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959);
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse, 1965);
Charlie Parker, Live at Massey Hall (Ojc, 1953);
Andre Benjamin, The Love Below (La Face, 2003).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz today seems to be in an interesting place. While there is still a very strong traditional faction, there is also a faction that is very forward thinking and incorporates elements of rock, hip hop, and R&B. Artists such as Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Christian Scott are just a few musicians that make up this faction and I believe they are responsible for this new movement in jazz. They are all musicians that are grounded in the tradition but are also trying to incorporate contemporary elements in their art form and staying true to themselves.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Musicians have to first remember that we are in the entertainment industry and in 2014 the way we look and act is just as important or more important than how we play. We also have to remember that are storytellers and the way to remain relevant is to write about the things that we see around us.

What is in the near future?
In the near future I will continue school at Juilliard while trying to tour with Christian Scott's band as well as play shows with my quartet. I am also lining up another record project with my drummer, Corey Fonville's group, Butcher Brown.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Pure Imagination."

By Day:
Student at the Juilliard School.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
An orthodontist.

About Braxton Cook
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