Don Braden: Earth Wind And Wonder, Volume 2

Tenor saxophonist and sextet imaginatively recast mostly lesser-known tunes from Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire as straightahead jazz

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Don Braden, along with the likes of Vincent Herring, has for me always been one of the most persuasive advocates of the post-bop continuum and the source material here does nothing to change that (Jammin’, for example, becomes a Traneish elegy not far from Love Supreme). Rather, it reminds us that even a relatively well-mined seam can be given freshness and depth by sincere, accomplished musicians whose love for their craft isn’t up for debate.

Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire have enjoyed only a tangential relationship with jazz per se, but here Braden blurs the dividing lines so thoroughly that categories become mere points of reference, which is just as it should be.

Thus the latter’s EWF’s Reasons becomes a vehicle for committed blowing tempered only by the kind of innate group understanding that stems from that elusive combination of familiarity and freshness. Here as elsewhere, Braden the tenor saxophonist shows he’s arrived at a point where his influences have fallen away and his individuality’s come into its own.

Wonder’s Send One Your Love is afforded a level of reverence that avoids rendering it a museum piece, while Braden’s lyricism manifests in the understated quality of his lines, free of all rhetorical gesture. The trio of Hirara, Davis and Warren goes about its business with a firm grasp of dynamics and rhythmic suppleness. Indeed, the whole is a good example of the seemingly dying art of letting the music breathe and the writing speak for itself.

In overall terms I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I reviewed an album which I intend going back to purely for the pleasure of listening to it. For me it engendered a raising of the spirit, and in days as fraught and dark as these that’s welcome.

Discography
In The Stone; Master Blaster (Jammin’); Reasons; Profusion; Send One Your Love; Bird Of Beauty; Arise; Creepin’; That’s The Way Of The World (55.18)
Braden (ts, f, af); Miki Hayama (p, kyb); Art Hirahara (p); Kenny Davis (b); Jeremy Warren (d); Kahlil Kwame Bell (pc). Tedesco Recording Studios, 20 February 2023, Creative Perspective Music Studio, March 2023. Towns unknown.
Creative Perspective Music CPM3007