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Rick Braun & Richard Elliot: RnR

Trumpeter Rick Braun’s last duet project, 2000’s Shake It Up with sax master Boney James, posited that hummable smooth-jazz tunes could find common ground with serious playing. Seven years later, Braun takes the same idea and applies it to an all-original project. This time, Richard Elliot is on tenor sax. Both Braun and Elliot co-founded the ARTizen Music Group, which released this CD. The CD title is somewhat of a misnomer: The first letters of their first names provide the hook, but spoken out loud the title implies rest and relaxation. It may, too, suggest an abundance of cotton-candy jazz, but that doesn’t hold up, either. Braun and Elliot are posed in silhouette on the CD in homage to Charlie’s Angels, and like those iconic TV stars they’ve decide to kick some musical boo-tay.

The CD offers 12 songs, including Braun’s solo tune “São Paulo,” which had previously been offered only as a download. On the rest of the 11 songs, however, Braun and Elliot trade licks as you might expect, occasionally joining on the chorus. Mostly, though, either the trumpet or sax holds the melody like vocalists digging into a duet, delivering a warm and inviting sound. There’s also an air of spontaneity in the playing, even though the sound’s polished and the melodies are always listenable.

It’s no mistake that the first single would be the title track. A tune co-written with guitarist Chris Standring, it’s a perfect summer groove and hints at the classic song so often covered by jazz artists, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” There are other tempting tunes, but RnR is notable for the majority that aren’t especially single-worthy. “Curve Ball” features Elliot playing as he does in concert, while “The Stranger” is a bluesy/electronica riff with a repeated 10-note bass run given ample cheerfulness with keyboard pulses in the bridges. “Sunday Night” is a dreamy, jazz-soaked ballad. On “Que Paso,” Braun and Elliot invited keyboardist and composer Philippe Saisse to help them write a midtempo jazz number with distinctly Latin overtones, while Jeff Lorber got the call on “Da JR Funk.”

Originally Published