Braden is one of the mature young stars of the tenor. At 38, he has a full, round tone and an unrushed sense of pacing. This state-of-the-tenor date catches him in the company of pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Cecil Brooks III-a flexible and often inspired rhythm section.
I'm partial to "Sweet T" (a bluesy tribute to Stanley Turrentine) and "Not Yet" (a soulful ode to, and by, Grover Washington Jr.). The latter, a duet with Davis, brings Braden's emotions rushing to the surface. The former, powered by Brooks' powerful, Blakeylike backbeat, captures the blues heft of the Turrentine style. Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," a duet with Burno, is rich and dark. "My Favorite Things" is warmer and mellower than the famous John Coltrane version.
Braden and Brooks pair up effectively on "Underground Groove," a joint original in which the tenor works out over the drummer's hip, steady pulse. To open the album, Braden chooses a ballad, an original called "She's on Her Way" (for his daughter), and makes an immediate case for his lyrical, melodically sensitive, uncrowded approach. The rhythm section is well tuned to the tenorist's moods throughout the album.