Don Braden

Contemporary Standards Ensemble

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Saxophonist Don Braden leads a sextet on this unusual outing. Together with alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist George Colligan, bassist Richie Goods, and drummer Ralph Peterson, Braden reinterprets contemporary standards -- i.e., pop songs -- in a jazz vein, much like Herbie Hancock did on his 1995 album The New Standard. Four of the tracks, however, are band originals, three by Braden, one by Goods. The reworked pop material includes "The Closer I Get to You" by Donny Hathaway, "Feel Like Making Love" by Roberta Flack, "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder, and, most ambitiously, "Kid Charlemagne" by Steely Dan, which works quite well as a swinging improv vehicle. There's a sugary aspect to the Hathaway song, and yet Braden's three-horn harmonies enhance the undeniably beautiful melody. And "Feel Like Making Love" is played at a slow, bluesy tempo, giving it a bawdy flavor. Braden's pieces are strong, particularly the Joe Henderson-esque "Dance of the One"; Richie Goods' lilting "Nandhi" features nice flugelhorn work from Stafford. Colligan's solos are unfailingly on target. These players are strong leaders in their own right, so the level of musicianship is very high.

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