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The ever youthful Don Braden has released his 12th recording as a leader, The New Hang , a splendid collection which showcases not only his prowess as one of jazz' tenor ambassadors but the prowess of a stellar supporting cast. Things start off with a surprisingly jaunty and upbeat version of Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire." Braden swings during his solo, moving in and around the melody as drummer Cecil Brooks III thrashes behind him. Organist Kyle Koehler follows and lays down the law with his gritty solo turn.
The standard "Without A Song" is played at a joyful up-tempo with everyone burning through their solos, especially Koehler. This is followed by another standard, "When I Fall In Love," a lovely duet between Braden and Koehler which features textures from blues and gospel.
"The Traveler" is another burner where Braden blows like crazy as the rhythm section drives him. Trombonist Conrad Herwig's fiery solo takes over to add spice to the already simmering gumbo. The tune shifts with the bass line defining the funk groove which lies dormant. "Wish List" finds Braden playing in an appropriately wistful tone. The song features another great Koehler solo and excellent drumming by Brooks. The band shifts into an R&B mode with "Release." Braden springs fountains of invention from his horn, triumphantly seizing the upper register like a prize.
Braden shifts tempo on "Mother's Wish," which he plays with a clear, strong, confident tone. "Code Blue" is another excellent horn interplay and even more dynamic drumming by Brooks. The disc ends with the title track, a standard blues with more hot tenor from the leader and more great down-in-the-trenches work by Koehler.
From straight-ahead jazz to gospel, up-tempo to ballads, there's no musical style to which Braden can't apply his technical mastery and boundless imagination. Herwig, Koehler and Brooks complete the stellar ensemble work, making The New Hang a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.