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JAZZ | * JAZZ REVIEW

Don Braden Puts His Own Spin on Great Saxophone Songs at the Bakery

January 29, 1998|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The title of Don Braden's recent album "Voice of the Saxophone," an octet date with five horns that explores "Great Songs of Saxophonists" as its subtitle states, may seem immodest. But playing the Jimmy Heath tune, which gives the record its name, Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery, Braden showed he has no reason to be modest.

The New York-based tenor player, who's recorded with vocalist Betty Carter, embraces the post-bop tradition of the saxophonists he covers on the album: Heath, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley and Sam Rivers. He also embraces their innovative spirit.

Working in a quartet with the L.A.-based rhythm section of pianist Billy Childs, bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Ralph Penland, Braden performed with disarming confidence and lyrical clarity. His improvisations developed genuine emotional content conveyed with every attractive phrase he played.

Braden likes to take tunes out of their usual context and cast them in new light. He played Shorter's gliding hard-bop piece "Speak No Evil" as a funk tune. The soft focus fusion tune made popular by Grover Washington Jr., "Winelight," was presented with straight-ahead walk and swing rhythms.

Braden displayed rhythm-and-blues leanings on Mobley's "Soul Station," playing with a slightly rawer tone and freer abandon. Otherwise, his tone was warmly polished, gaining an edge only as it moved into higher registers. Heath's "Voice of the Saxophone," played at a ballad tempo, was a truly moving experience layered with honest, somewhat melancholy feeling.

Also on the double bill was Boston-based vocalist Dominique Eade who, like Braden, has a recent album out on the RCA Victor label. Working with the same rhythm section, Eade made a strong impression with her crystal-clear, accurately pitched tones and instrumentally inspired scat, all applied to challenging original material.

BE THERE

Don Braden and Dominique Eade play the Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., West Los Angeles. Tonight-Saturday, 8:30 and 10 p.m. $18 tonight, $20 Friday-Saturday. (310) 271-9039.

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