One of contemporary jazz’s most popular artists, trumpeter Rick Braun has a sound built on a silken, lyrical horn voice, usually set over grooving rhythms. On Crossroads, he doesn’t stray too far from that formula, but he deploys it in a rich variety of contexts.
A collection of stylistically varied originals and covers, Crossroads includes references to (and appearances by) Braun’s family and friends. Braun collaborated on several tracks with keyboardist Philippe Saisse, a longtime friend, and he composed the tune “Me and You” with another friend and frequent collaborator, guitarist Peter White. The laid-back ballad reflects the pair’s genial bonhomie, with White’s guitar responses to Braun’s horn conveying the feeling of old friends chatting. Braun’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” is a joyous, funky jam featuring yet another longtime friend, saxophonist Richard Elliot, who teams with Braun to form a rollicking horn section.
Braun composed the irresistibly catchy “Around the Corner” for his daughter to dance to, and his 17-year-old son plays the keyboard intro to his gentle, lyrical cover of Bruno Mars’ “Versace on the Floor.”
The Americana-esque “Family” was partly inspired by Braun’s grandparents, who were both musical. When composing the piece, Braun drew upon his memories of the music they used to play, and he performs the plaintively lovely melody with palpable emotion. The vibe is evocative of wide-open spaces, the melody underpinned by a chugging rhythm suggestive of train wheels. While not really jazz (or contemporary jazz), it’s an intriguing musical direction that well suits Braun’s sound and style.
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