Body and Soul
Over the course of three albums, trumpeter Rick Braun has become the crowned prince of "smooth jazz"- which has proven both a blessing and a curse, as his last release Beat Street burned up the charts, but was more formulaic and less entrancing than previous efforts. Braun mixes things up more on Body and Soul (Bluemoon 2-92743; 48:14), slinking his delicately phrased muted-horn musings through dusky, spacious "atmosphere" pieces and some old-style soul throwbacks, as well as the more commercial, souped-up synthesizer bits. As always, Braun's thoughtful play wakes up and "legitimizes" some of the more typical late-night grooves ("Notorious"), but the real highlights here are the departures: Braun's cool lead lick becomes the calming influence in the guitar-jangling soul piece "Slick," and his spiraling be-bop trumpet licks skate across fast-paced funk rhythms for the blues-walking "Coolsville." "Hymn for Her" adds the counterpoint voice of Mark Antoine's sensitive guitar strokes for yet another atypical effect. Although there are weaker pieces here as well, it's nice to know that Braun has not become complacent in his royal status, and is still willing to experiment.