Rick Braun

Esperanto

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The title of the popular trumpeter and composer's latest triumph is a wistful reference to a language created in the late 19th century (by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, who used the pseudonym "Dr. Esperanto") to facilitate communication between people of different lands and cultures. It's representative of the unique vibe of the collection, which features distinctive Euro influences drawn from the realms of trance, electronica, and acid jazz, with dramatic orchestral touches as well. Before those kick in, however, listeners are treated to an extension of the old-school brassy soul of B.W.B., the Warner Bros. ensemble of Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown. "Green Tomatoes" is an old-school, Les McCann-flavored retro-funk explosion written by Braun over a groove and vocoder line originally composed by the popular London-based acid jazz outfit 45 Dip, led by Chris Beeman. Braun's eye for musical collaborations continues, with two tracks co-written and co-produced with keyboard legend Jeff Lorber (the heavy-grooving, Euro-minded "Sir W" and the party-minded free-for-all jam session "Stereo," with saxman Gerald Albright and keyboardist Gregg Karukas) and two with longtime Braun keyboardist Mitch Forman (the exotic and percussive, hip-hop- and jazz fusion-influenced "Zona Rosa" and the poignant two-minute duet closer "Mother's Day," fashioned as a tribute to their late mothers). Another new and highly elegant addition to the Braun production palette is his exploration of the harmonic possibilities of an 18-piece string section on four tracks. Braun's success in smooth jazz is due not only to his phenomenal trumpeting and picture-perfect melodies and grooves. There's always a commitment to new styles and adventures each time out, and the mix is irresistible.

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