The name Workin’ evokes those great jazz records from the ’50s and ’60s, but the music on this disc is a smoldering amalgam of classic and modern. Anyway, the title is probably meant to be read literally: Tenor saxophonist Don Braden, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Cecil Brooks III are actually working here, as this is a live album recorded at Brooks’ jazz club in West Orange, N.J.—which, not incidentally, makes for a recording full of immediacy and intimacy.
A deep groove is established immediately on the old Earth Wind and Fire tune “Can’t Hide Love” (Braden calls it “You Can’t Hide Love”) as the saxophone hopscotches all over the funky foundation laid by organ and drums. Braden introduces “She’s on Her Way,” a ballad he wrote for his daughter before she was born, with a tender unaccompanied solo, and things get cooking with a high- temperature take of “Where There’s Smoke,” which features some outstanding drumming that encompasses hard bop, funk and rock. Koehler transitions smoothly between sustains and staccato attacks, and he engages in a complex interchange with Brooks on “Brighter Days.”
The set’s emotional core comes toward the end, with a pair of songs that Roberta Flack made famous: “The Closer I Get to You,” which gets a devastatingly beautiful reading here, and “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” which seals the evening with a kiss.