Next weekend on Saturday, March 11, a jazz show at Fortune: it's the American alto saxophonist Braxton Cook, with our own Jonny Tobin opening.
On the Black Nostalgia tour, Braxton supports his new album Who Are You When No One Is Watching. It's a balanced blend of contemporary jazz and R&B:
Jonny and I talked about the upcoming gig.
Jonny and Braxton have never met, but they got connected through their mutual collaborator, Portland saxophonist BrandonLee Cierley.
When they meet, they'll hit it off; both are men around thirty who trained as instrumentalists, got busy as session players, completed a jazz education, added beatmaking to their repertoire of skills, and then started singing on top of it all. It's uncanny!
Jonny mentioned how he's wishing for the young CapU players to engage with Braxton's show, as he feels it's a natural fit for them:
"The promoters of the show were like, 'We really want some jazzheads in the city to come out. I don't know if there's a buzz in the jazz scene but I hope there is. He's a pretty heavy jazz artist in terms of modern... I guess contemporary post-bop type of vibes."
Here's me and Jonny getting closer to what Braxton represents to us.
WC: We can't speak for everybody here, but I think you understand this really well. There's this post-Roy Hargrove, post-90s generation of Black musicians where jazz, soul and R&B, and hip-hop are all combined and presented in contemporary hip-hop culture, and it's treated as one tradition of music with the same reverence that you would learn jazz, they've integrated all of that into this one tradition of music. I think that's amazing. That's what he's doing, right?
"Yeah, totally. I think for some people there's a delineation between jazz and hip-hop, but for me and I think for somebody like Braxton, it's this umbrella of Black American music – which is this line that you can trace back historically – and the way that hip-hop music sampled jazz and soul records.
"And traditional jazz music had its own form of sampling, in the form of common chord progressions that were recontextualized. In a way it's like a form of sampling. It's a structure that people are familiar with, and then people remix it. I think Braxton is definitely part of this post- hip-hop generation where there's an openness to all these styles and a realization of the commonality of it all.
"That's what I do with my own music as well. I just create stuff that I like, but it's very much informed by all these traditions."
WC: You have this innovative sound that's really recognizable as you, that you've been crafting over the last five years, but you can tell what you're drawing on and the respect that you have for it. Obviously with Braxton there's that as well. That's the attitude that I see in both of you, you know?
"Yeah. When I saw that he was playing here, I was like, I have to get on this bill! I feel like there's that open, free spirit but at the same time respecting and paying tribute to where this all comes from. I think that some of the best music comes from a place of humility and being grateful for those who have come before, so I always try to make that clear in whatever way that looks like."
WC: What else is on your mind about the show – what are you going to do in the opening set?
"Originally, I was going to have a quartet, fully live with no backing tracks. Then things changed and I decided to do it solo with a looper, improvise chord progressions and solos or melodies on top of those beats. But now, it's going to be a hybrid of that. I re-tooled. I'm going to present songs from a couple brand-new releases, some stuff from my last album Together, with the goal of trying to uplift people.
"I'm putting some thought into it in terms of the presentation. I think people can expect something fresh and uplifting to shake off the stress and negativity they might be feeling."
That's what Jonny and I talked about. His latest single, which he'll perform on the gig, is called "Anibae".
Tickets at Fortune Sound Club for Saturday, March 11 are $24 here, doors at 7pm.
Now for the rest of the notes and links about Braxton that I checked out this week: