6

Anthony Branker & Word Play: Uppity

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Anthony Branker & Word Play: Uppity On Uppity, Dr. Anthony Branker, Director of Jazz Studies at Princeton University, has created a life-affirming, sometimes funky, and straight-through beautiful set of sounds—an ode to the resiliency and basic goodness of the human spirit.

Branker began his jazz journey as a trumpeter, but complications from a brain aneurysm in 1999 brought his trumpet playing days to an end. He is now the composer and musical director of his Ascent and Word Play modern jazz ensembles.

Uppity opens with a funky, street-wise vibe, on "Let's Conversate!" Tight and in the groove, the music moves like something out of the early 1970s Motown Records' catalog, with the three horns—trombone, trumpet and tenor sax—getting into some serious conversatin' that gives way to pianist Jim Ridl's urban sparkle on Fender Rhodes. "Dance Like No One Is Watching," rides the funk rhythm of drummer Donald Edwards and bassist Kenny Davis into an intricate interweaving of horn lines leading into trombonist Andy Hunter's fluid, laidback solo that gives way to tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen's burning turn.

"Three Gifts (from a Nigerian Mother)" shifts the moods, telling the tragic story of a woman who lost three children in the 2005 Sosoliso Airlines crash, then came to embrace a deep spirituality and see her loss as gifts to God. Opening with a subdued melancholy from trumpeter Eli Asher (on flugelhorn), the music rises to an anguished cry as Bowen takes over. The majestic tune includes Charmaine Lee's soaring, wordless vocalese, paired in unison with tenor saxophone then trombone, for an eerily angelic harmony.

In addition to his composing and arranging skills, Branker is also very adept at sequencing a CD for maximum engagement, beginning with funk, moving into the profound, symphonic solemnity of "Three Gifts (from a Nigerian Mother)" and the angular, sharp-edged title cut, before closing with the most beautiful of tunes, "Ballad for Treyvon Martin." Martin was the seventeen year-old youth shot to death in Miami in 2012 for appearing out of place, due to his race. With a soft string backdrop, the ballad contains some of the set's most gorgeous and inspired soloing from Bowen and Ridl, ending an extraordinary set imbued with a sense of healing, and call for tolerance and understanding.

Track Listing: Let's Conversate!; Dance Like No One is Watching; Three Gifts (from a Nigerian Mother to God; Across the Divide; Uppity; Ballad for Trayvon Martin.

Personnel: Ralph Bowen: tenor saxophone; Andy Hunter: trombone, keyboards; Elis Asher: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jim Ridl: piano, Fender Rhodes; Donald Edwards: drums; Charmaine Lee: vocals (3); Anthony Branker: composer, musical director.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Origin Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Nightfall CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Pekka CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read In the Still of the Night CD/LP/Track Review In the Still of the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Zea CD/LP/Track Review Zea
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Asian Fields Variations CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read Left Right Left CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Onward" CD/LP/Track Review Onward
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 5, 2017
Read "Back In Your Own Backyard" CD/LP/Track Review Back In Your Own Backyard
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Ida Lupino" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Lupino
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "2-Man Jazz Band" CD/LP/Track Review 2-Man Jazz Band
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "You'll Never Know" CD/LP/Track Review You'll Never Know
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 31, 2017
Read "Up and Coming" CD/LP/Track Review Up and Coming
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: January 29, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, and provide read access to our future articles.