Don Braden: The Voice of the Saxophone

COMPOSERS: Don Braden,Hank Mobley and Jimmy Heath,John Coltrane,Wayne Shorter
LABELS: RCA Victor
PERFORMER: Don Braden (ts); Vincent Herring (as); Hamiet Blueitt (bs, c, bc), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 67897 2

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Here’s an old head on young shoulders. Don Braden studied engineering at Harvard, but probably learnt his most important lessons at the Betty Carter finishing school for young jazzmen. Since then he has kept stellar company, cut seven albums of his own, and written for film and TV.

His experience and exuberance come together in this tastefully programmed big group outing. A tribute to tenor-playing composers, the album includes pearls from Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley and Jimmy Heath, plus two fine originals.

Braden never puts a foot wrong: his arrangements are harmonically spacious and well sprung rhythmically; the ‘guest’ soloists say what they have to say and then get out; strategically placed ballads balance the overall dynamic; no track exceeds seven and a half minutes.

His own playing is muscular, authoritative and expressive, but entirely lacking in the sort of showy histrionics which could have been prompted by the presence of four other brilliant soloists.

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The jazz repertory needs people like Don Braden – but, like Quincy Jones before him, will he have the time to fit it all in? GB