Rick Braun - Can You Feel It (2014)

Rick Braun
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Most people would say the saxophone is the most popular instrument in contemporary jazz and instrumental R&B music. Sax players might be the closest thing the genre has to super stars. In a way, that shouldn’t be too surprising. The saxophone is the one brass instrument that regularly gets used as a solo instrument after making the jump from jazz – where it became popular as a solo instrument – to R&B and rock music.

The trumpet, which is Rick Braun’s instrument of choice, has a legendary presence in straight ahead jazz: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Wynton Marsalis are among the great trumpet players. However, trumpet often gets relegated to an ensemble instrument in R&B and rock music – to the extent that it has a presence at all.

Most people would say the saxophone is the most popular instrument in contemporary jazz and instrumental R&B music. Sax players might be the closest thing the genre has to super stars. In a way, that shouldn’t be too surprising. The saxophone is the one brass instrument that regularly gets used as a solo instrument after making the jump from jazz – where it became popular as a solo instrument – to R&B and rock music.

The trumpet, which is Rick Braun’s instrument of choice, has a legendary presence in straight ahead jazz: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Wynton Marsalis are among the great trumpet players. However, trumpet often gets relegated to an ensemble instrument in R&B and rock music – to the extent that it has a presence at all.

Braun, like fellow contemporary jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, has always managed to turn what could be a disadvantage for his chosen instrument into a virtue. That trend continues on Can You Feel It, Braun’s 16th studio album. While contemporary jazz saxophonists sometimes dominate the musical conversation, Braun’s reputation as a collaborator – take note of his work with Boney James, as well as his projects with Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown in the  band BWB and with Richard Elliot in duo RnR. He continues to play well with others on Can You Feel It, tapping an all-star lineup of musicians that includes Euge Groove, Brian Culbertson, Elliott Yamin and Jeff Lorber.

Braun has an extensive background in rock and R&B music that includes co-writing the Top 20 song “Here With Me” for REO Speedwagon and touring with artists from Sade to Tom Petty, and that means he knows how to get funky.  The trumpeter is funky enough to bring a bit a Memphis soul to Can You Feel It in the form of a cover of the Al Green classic “Take Me To The River.” Braun plays it straight on the arrangement of a song that is too good to be messed with too much. American Idol alum Elliot Yamin brings his gritty and soulful vocals and Braun leads the horn section in channeling that Hi Records sound.

Braun excels at playing at every tempo. He brings creativity and a slow swing to the ballad “Another Kind of Blue,” and an element of brassy funk to mid-tempo instrumental R&B numbers such as “Delta,” while bringing smooth 1980s vibe to tracks such as “The Dream.”

Braun brings the trumpet into the forefront on Can You Feel It. However, he does so in a way enhances rather than detracts from the other strong musical personalities featured on this record. Rick Braun is a confident and creative instrumentalist who elevates and is elevated by the artists and material on Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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