Catasauqua Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

Don Braden to preview tunes from album at ‘Jazz Upstairs’

Friday, September 27, 2019 by GEORGE VANDOREN Special to The Press in Focus

Don Braden brings “Earth, Wind and Wonder” to the “Jazz Upstairs” series, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall.

Braden, adept on saxophone and flute, is a prolific composer, arranger and educator. He has toured worldwide with such jazz greats Kenny Barron, Betty Carter, Tom Harrell, Roy Haynes, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis and Tony Williams, as well as with the Mingus Big Band, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.

He has some 21 CDs as a leader with a list of sidemen that reads like “Who’s Who of Jazz,” including Christian McBride, Kenny Werner, Jeff “Tain” Watts, David “Fathead” Newman, Dave Liebman, Terell Stafford, Randy Brecker, Steve Turre and Jack McDuff.

Braden has composed music for ensembles, ranging from duo to symphonic orchestra; film and television, including Nickelodeon and CBS. He heads the Harvard Jazz Combo Initiative and is visiting professor at the Prins Claus Conservatory in the Netherlands.

Braden started on alto sax in elementary school. “Then I got a tenor [sax] in middle school,” he says in a phone interview. “The bug bit me in high school. I started practicing a lot and played in a garage band. We played a couple gigs in the Louisville area.

“I studied with Jamie Abersold [arguably the best-known jazz educator in the United States]. He put me in touch with Mike Tracy and I learned all about straight-ahead jazz.” Braden cites Isaac Hayes, Grover Washington Jr. and Stanley Turrentine as saxophone musician influences.

Joining Braden at Miller Symphony Hall are quartet members Art Hirahara, piano; Kenny Davis, bass, and Jeremy Warren, drums.

Hirahara is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He has toured the world with jazz notables, including Stacey Kent, Freddy Cole, Rufus Reid, Dave Douglas and Hafez Modirzadeh.

Davis, a Chicago native, received a Bachelor’s in Music from Northeastern Illinois University and a Master’s in Music from Rutgers University. He is also an arranger with credits on Cassandra Wilson’s Grammy-winning “Blue Light Till Dawn.” He has performed with jazz artists Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves and Art Farmer, and was bassist for “The Tonight Show Band.”

Warren hails from North Little Rock, Ark. He received dual Bachelor’s in Jazz Studies and Music Education from the University of Memphis and a Master’s in Music from New York University. He teaches in the Plainfield, N.J., public schools. He has performed with Deanna Martin, Andy Milne, Lenny Pickett, John Scofield and Tom Scott.

Of the “Jazz Upstairs” concert, Braden says, “We’ll be playing classic songs and jazz arrangements of familiar songs. We extend them and create something different.

“We’ll play straight-ahead jazz with lots of swing and a lot of respect and reverence for the music.

“We’re working on ‘Earth, Wind and Wonder II,’ so you’ll hear some of those tunes.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. for a free buffet, included with the ticket price. A cash bar is available.

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown;; 610-432-6715