Soul-jazz, if nothing else, was all about the deepest of sticky grooves, solos that sometimes took tunes in surprising directions and, maybe above all, a joyful exuberance that was easily felt and heard by listeners. That’s the kind of cannonball, no pun intended, that saxophonist Don Braden launches with the engaging and aptly titled Luminosity, on which he’s joined by longtime associates Kyle Koehler on organ and Cecil Brooks III on drums, and ace guitarist Dave Stryker.
The music jumps from the get-go, with Stryker diving right into a brief spin at the start of “Luminosity (First Steps),” its melody hinting at “Giant Steps.” Braden then gets his first showcase spot, plunging his gritty but clean-sounding tenor into a long, pirouetting improvisation before handing the solo space to Koehler, Stryker and Brooks. The four take a similar tack on other Braden-penned tunes, including the fast-percolating “Jive Turkey,” built on old-school R&B rhythms, the more laidback “The Time We Shared” and “Walkin’ the Walk.” The leader pulls out his alto flute for the lovely, stately ballad “Do Love Me Do.”
Braden and crew mix it up to a greater extent on tunes by other composers, cooking up a swinging take on Chick Corea’s “Bud Powell,” featuring one of Stryker’s most impressive solos of the session, and adding trumpeter Claudio Roditi for some refreshing two-horn harmonies on a bossa-fied version of the Rodgers and Hart standard “I Could Write a Book.” Braden turns in a gorgeous unaccompanied reading of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge,” and brings alto man Sherman Irby into the fold for the closer, their two saxes meshing smartly on tangy unison and harmony lines before each delivers a bracing solo. Call it a rousing finish to a fully satisfying sonic meal. Seconds?