The Open Road
Steadily and rather quietly Don Braden has developed into a formidable and intelligent tenor saxophonist, rich in tone, swift of mind and nimble of finger when called for, subtle and reflective where necessary. Recent live evidence from a band led by the explosive drummer Cecil Brooks revealed that Braden brings often surprising wells of passion and energy to his playing, though he is far from being strictly an energy player. His broad tone is informed by the modern pantheon of the instrument, though he is slave to no one particular school of playing. A Harvard grad who is something of a computer whiz on the side, Don Braden continues on a steady growth pattern as a musician.
The cast of characters chosen for this recording reflects a malleable ensemble capable of going in several directions; they include trumpeter Tim Hagans, pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Larry Grenadier, and in-demand drummer Billy Hart-in demand precisely because he is at home in so many disparate settings. The program is dotted with the tried and true, including "April In Paris," ""Thought About You," "Alone Together," "Someday My Prince Will Come"-you get the drift-and a couple of originals. He takes "I Thought About You" in an attractive duet with Grenadier. Far from a program of head arrangements, Braden has taken care to give each of the familiar vehicles his own fresh coat of paint. The arrangement of "Maiden Voyage" is a case in point, laden with an invigorating harmonic structure, lent primarily by Werner's chords, that lends a distinctive touch. - Willard Jenkins