This CD is a welcome addition to any jazz collection.

Origin 82786

Anthony Branker (Composer, Arranger, Musical Director, and Producer), Ralph Bowen (Tenor and Soprano Saxophones), Antonio Hart (Alto and Soprano Saxophones), Clifford Adams, Jr. (Trombone), Jonny King (Piano), John Benitez (Double Bass), Ralph Peterson, Jr. (Drums)

Recorded May 18-19, 2004

Anthony Branker is a multi-talented artist who is known for his sophisticated approach to modern creative post-bop jazz. He is a composer, arranger, musical director, and educator.

Branker trained to be a trumpet player, however, he has focused on composing for much of his career due to health issues resulting from a brain aneurysm in 1999. Branker has been recognized as a “Rising Star Composer” in the 62nd and 63rd Annual Critics Poll by Down Beat magazine.

This CD is a reissue of his 2006 debut on Sons of Sounds Records. The reissue is dedicated to the memory of drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. and trombonist Clifford Adams Jr. They both contributed to the CD with their considerable talents.

The album begins with “Chant for Peace Eternal,” which features a main theme reminiscent of Coltrane’s spiritual music. Bowen’s saxophone solo is similar in style to Coltrane’s, but with less high velocity and high notes.

The modal theme is revisited throughout the song, weaving with the various horns, both individually and in harmony. Overall, the piece provides a spiritually uplifting experience.

“Parris in April” was written for Branker’s daughter. It conjures up a young lady’s first experiences with the sights and feel of the magical French town. The bossa-tinged song features Antonio Hart as the lead and soloing horn. One appreciates Branker’s skill and taste in the arrangement and direction. A beautiful song.

“Sketches of Selim” is a tribute to the legendary jazz trumpeter, Miles (“Selim”) Davis. The song captures the feel of Miles without quoting any of his songs per se.

Opening with an imaginative bass solo over a wash of cymbals sets the contemplative mood. It captures the feel of some of Miles’ introspective compositions with the saxophones stating the theme. The close harmonies are intertwined with solos that enter and reenter to state and re-state the extended theme over a bed of bass and drums.

“Imani” has a funky beat with the horns playing as an ensemble. This is a feel-good song with the horns taking the lead before introducing the masterful trombone solo. Interestingly, Adams was a long-time member of Kool & the Gang and this contributes to the funkiness of the song.

“In God’s Hands”, Ralph Bowen’s soprano saxophone is reverential but uplifting. It has the feel of a heartfelt prayer and is taken at a slow, almost mournful pace. But it is not “just blues” per se just an ardent plea for something better.

“J.C.’s Passion” is a homage to John Coltrane’s brilliant earlier works. Branker has composed a variation on “So What” and “Impressions” in this rolling tune. The piano does the heavy lifting in the beginning before segueing into a group ensemble. The sax sneaks in low and transforms the song into an extended series of exchanges between tenor and alto saxophones.

The harmonized horn sections introduce and return from individual horn solos. It is a pleasant and satisfying change from single-horn ensembles. It’s impossible to tell what was arranged and what was improvised, but it hardly matters when the result is such a fantastic set of songs.

Each of the Branker pieces “…holds a different set of compositional surprises and rewards from background horn lines to group jams, to rich and redolent harmonic frameworks for blowing.” This CD is a welcome addition to any jazz collection.