Braxton Cook wants to keep modernizing jazz music


Music – 3 hours ago

Robyn Mowatt

Robyn Mowatt is an editor at Okayplayer where she…

Cook Braxton

Photo credit: Lauren Desberg

Braxton Cook shares details about his upcoming album and tells us how he felt returning to New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club.

Cook Braxtonthe world-renowned saxophonist, composer and singer has been releasing his take on jazz music since sharing his debut EP Sketch in 2014. Nearly a week ago, he headlined two shows alongside his band at the New York historic Blue Note Jazz Club, with both sets sold out.

“I’ll be honest, I definitely felt some pressure to come back and play in New York,” Cook said on a Zoom call from his California home.

It was Cook’s first show in New York since 2021 at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere Rooftop. Amid the pressure he felt when he took the stage, he also felt the night felt like a reunion since a few of his band members live on the East Coast. The Emmy-winning musician also shared that the crowd got a taste of a new album he’s been working on (but didn’t reveal when the project will arrive).

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Greenbelt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Cook has loved music for as long as he can remember. His parents (father, a pastor; mother, a classically trained pianist) took him and his three brothers (Cook is the second oldest) into various pursuits like basketball and theater in hopes to help them “find our passions”. Taking piano lessons as a child played a role in Cook’s growing love for music, but it was when he started playing the saxophone aged 13 that he found his instrument. predilection. His father is the reason Braxton became obsessed with this instrument from the age of five.

The family moved around a lot but eventually they put down roots in Silver Spring, Maryland. While in Montgomery County — which Braxton called “sidity” — he attended Springbrook High School. His stay there was decisive; he studied the saxophone and took advanced lessons. After graduating in 2009, Cook attended Georgetown University to study English. While there, he worked and gigged on U Street, gradually becoming a fixture in the DC jazz community.

Two years later, he transferred to the Juilliard School where he continued his studies and decided to pursue a full-time musical career. This chance he took on himself proved to be worth it, as New York gave him new space to cut his teeth as a musician and artist, leading to a long-standing collaborative relationship. with Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott, as well as tours and performances. with the Christian McBride Big Band and Jon Batiste. He finally launched his solo career in 2014, with a burgeoning fan base and critically acclaimed tours and performances.

Cook’s soulful sound seamlessly blends jazz with funk, soul and gospel, a testament to the passionate and thoughtful work he does as an independent artist. Each of his albums is the product of the years he spent honing his craft and reinventing himself, as he did with the 2020s. fire sign, an album that saw him delve further into an R&B lane. With his next album, he will mix elements he has already explored in the past, while pushing jazz towards modern sounds.

Okayplayer recently caught up with Braxton Cook and talked to him about his life in California as a husband and father, his upcoming album and more.

How does it feel to start the year with a show at the Blue Note?

It feels like a restart button I felt like I wanted – and all of us, including my band members, everyone, we deserve it. This senseless act of God came through like a storm and ravaged our community. And not only the livelihood of artists, but also that of club owners. It’s an ecosystem.

We lost a lot of music clubs. So it’s a blessing that Blue Note was able to weather this storm. On top of that, it was a blessing that the five of us, my party members and myself, and really a lot of the cats I know, were able to weather this storm. But not everyone. So I don’t take that for granted. It’s just an absolute blessing.

How do you think being a husband and father interferes with your work?

Practically, it will definitely affect your time. You have to learn to – or rather – I have to learn to manage my time better. It’s one thing here because now we’re up at 5:00 in the morning, 5:30, 5:45. Trying to work around nap times, feeding times, all those sorts of things. Me and my wife, we have flexible hours. She is a teacher, works two days a week. I create my own schedule and have shows from time to time. It’s very fortunate, but it sets a precedent for filling our time with specific things that really cater to its development. And we’re adamant about that stuff. It definitely helped me manage my time better.

Braxton Cook's Blue Note Jazz Club

Braxton Cook performing at a sold out show at the Blue Note Jazz Club alongside his band Michael King, Andrew Renfroe, Papa Henry and Curtis Nowosad. Photo credit: Jamel Love

Can you share a bit about your upcoming album?

The plan is, tentatively, that I’d like to scrap probably by the end of the year. Like the last trimester, at the beginning of the last trimester. So probably a fall record, I think, with the fall tour. If not, I will definitely at least release some music this summer. I’m excited about this one. For the first time, I put people on this record. I’m excited to open the record, the music and the sound to others in my community and around me.

What can we expect the sound to sound like?

Basically similar to my folder somewhere in between. I kind of want to stick to my core, in the sense that I’m really from both worlds, both languages. I want to merge the two. This has been the mission from the start. I think [with] fire sign, I went further down that R&B path. It was cool. I mean, it was only eight songs. This one, I want it to be like a 12, 13 song project. And I want to have both fully instrumental tracks and just full R&B for people who love both sides of my art. That’s really it. I’m not going to try to create a whole new name for the sound. But it’s literally like modern jazz, where the sound I feel is enhanced with the 808s, and cool sounds to blend in with the R&B stuff.

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Henry R. Wright