Alan Braufman settled into the New York loft scene when he moved to the city in 1973 with friends from the Berklee College of Music, including saxophonist David S. Ware and pianist Gene Ashton (known now as Cooper-Moore). Their residence, 501 Canal Street, became an incubator for free-thinking jazz. It was also where the alto saxophonist/flutist made his recording debut two years later with Valley of Search. Braufman rereleased the original album, long coveted by jazz collectors, in 2018. Now a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, he reunited with Cooper-Moore for its follow-up, The Fire Still Burns, which aptly describes the rapport between the two friends 45 years on.
Further aided by James Brandon Lewis (tenor saxophone), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums), Braufman opens the album with some folk melodies that combine brightness with free tempos (“Sunrise”) and a gospel groove (“Morning Bazaar”), one spilling into another like a dynamic suite. But “No Floor No Ceiling” and “Home,” while continuing to deliver accessible tunes, recall the intensity of Braufman and Cooper-Moore’s early days. The leader’s alto still has a tart, aggressive tone that’s complemented by Lewis’ wide-ranging technique.
Like Valley of Search, The Fire Still Burns eschews extended free-blowing tracks in favor of concise chunks of power. The rhythm section guides the horns from unison long tones toward a clear climax, with Cooper-Moore adding the right amount of thunder. When things calm down for the soulful “Alone Again,” the music summons as much heat as it does when the horns peel off some wails in the title track’s coda. Braufman’s name might be associated with a bygone era, but his playing has continued to evolve and expand in the ensuing decades.