Saxophonist Don Braden Presents Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2, a dynamic and exploratory catalog of the works of Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire, due out June 16, 2023
Saxophonist, composer and arranger Don Braden is excited to announce the June 16, 2023 release of Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2, a follow up to his lauded first volume, released in 2018. Like its predecessor, Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2 reimagines a selected repertoire of two of Braden’s early musical influences: Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder. The output is as energetic as it is grooving, which we’ve come to expect from the imaginative arrangements and critical reception of Braden’s previous installment. Throughout Earth Wind and Wonder Volume 2, Braden can be heard on tenor saxophone, flute and alto flute. Joining him are Art Hirahara and Miki Hayama on piano and keyboard, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Jeremy Warren and percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell.
World-class reedist Don Braden, who for the past three decades has been revered as an astute and singular arranger/composer, continues to furnish new and charismatic ventures that are both joyous and thrilling. “My main goal with this Volume 2 was to capture our real band sound on new material developed over several years of playing together,” Braden shared in a comment, expounding on the impetus for the band’s follow-up recording. “We are definitely pushing for the next-level of true jazz energy in the performances: more swing, creativity and connection to jazz’s African-American roots.” To this extent, deeper melodic, harmonic and rhythmic interactions punctuate the rich arrangements on Volume 2. “I truly believe that all these qualities intermingled with these amazing songs make for wonderful jazz journeys, both for us players and for the audiences.”
The recording commences with the bright Earth, Wind & Fire tune “In the Stone,” deftly showcasing Braden’s command of both uptempo swing and jazz-samba. While he alternates between the two styles, the tune relays that “true love is written in the stone,” a fitting opening message for the bandleader on such a tribute. “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” follows, conjuring a vigorous fashion that, as Braden relays, is inspired by Elvin Jones’ arranging style. “Reasons” offers a thorough harmonic treatment and a swinging solo section featuring robust work from Kenny Davis, some brilliant rhythmic acuity by Kahlil Kwame Bell and steadfast contributions from Miki Hayama on both piano and keyboards. “Send One Your Love” morphs Wonder’s R&B radio hit into a tender jazz ballad, airing Braden’s boundless palette on tenor while a shift in key exhibits the visionary and sensitive manners of Art Hirahara.
Though Earth, Wind and Wonder, Volume 2 is rooted in the repertoire of his two aforementioned musical influences, Braden devotes two original tunes to the record, one for each of his musical heroes. The odd-metered “Profusion” collapses inspiration from Wonder hits “Contusion” and “Too High”, the latter of which motivated Braden’s triad motion and the foremost reigning as one of Wonder’s most multiplex fusion impressions. “Arise”, the second album original, can also be heard at the close of Braden’s Contemporary Standards Ensemble (2000). The swinging track evokes a similar glory projected across Earth, Wind & Fire’s repertoire and is exteriorized through sweltering interplay between Braden on saxophone and Jeremy Warren on drums.
Both of Braden’s flute offerings come from Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale: the ethereal waltz “Bird of Beauty” and the sultry “Creepin’”, which Braden also recorded on his After Dark (1998). A testament to his spirited musicianship, Braden’s willingness to record such familiar tunes in varying formats marks an enduring and rare curiosity. In consequence, when he turns back to the saxophone on the closing statement “That’s the Way of the World,” listeners can anticipate to swing and soar, yet they will delight in the uncertainty of what exactly Don Braden’s next adventure has in store.
- In the Stone (5:07)
- Master Blaster (Jammin’) (6:24)
- Reasons (7:41)
- Profusion (6:32)
- Send One Your Love (5:36)
- Bird of Beauty (5:26)
- Arise (6:36)
- Creepin’ (5:01)
- That’s the Way of the World (6:34)