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Don Braden: Presents the Contemporary Standards Ensemble

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Four selections in this program are latter-day pop songs that, argues saxophonist Don Braden, should become jazz standards. In fact, Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” works okay in a jazz arrangement, but this band fails to make a case for themes by Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack: the melodies are not interesting, the chord changes are too discursive. The other four tracks, originals by Braden and his bassist Richie Goods, are better to improvise upon, and this is important for Braden’s sextet of hard-bop revivalists. Because all these soloists, especially decorative trumpeter-flugelhornist Terrell Stafford and dry-sounding but blues-drenched altoist Vincent Herring, depend on the changes for solo form; even with provocative chords, their inspiration and continuity are uncertain.

Eclectic tenor saxman Braden is the most prominent soloist here. His style is made from elements of Mobley, Coltrane, Rollins and plenty of early Jazz Messengers Wayne Shorter, the period that yielded much of Shorter’s best work. As if to emphasize Shorter’s inspiration, “Dance of the One” starts with the vivid solo tenor tones of 1961’s “Children of the Night.” In “Arise” and “Kid,” Braden even solos with a flowing, evolving line that recalls Shorter’s early methods. The Hank Mobley swagger that begins the tenor solo in “The Vail Jumpers” solo is attractive, before Braden lapses into the discontinuity that also troubles most of his other solos, too.

The charging rhythm section is lovely. Pianist George Colligan is another eclectic, veering from ’50s boppers to ’60s modalists, and the fine drummer Ralph Peterson makes it all swing.