Saxophonist Braden playing with faculty trio, VU ensemble
By Diane Kubiak Post-Tribune correspondent April 11, 2013 10:52AM
Don Braden, director of Jazz at Montclair State University will perform with the Valparaiso University Jazz Ensemble. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
“The tunes invite macho tenor playing. Braden’s ‘The Funky View,’ on which he solos with blitz-like swirling runs, is a technically dazzling example.” – Owen Cordle, Jazz Times, in reviewing the album “Big Funk.”
“A nice person and a great musician...” – Bill Cosby.
“…brilliant and assured…” —Peter Watrous, The New York Times.
Updated: May 13, 2013 6:02AM
Don Braden left Louisville, Ky. in 1981 with a new saxophone and a letter of admittance to Harvard University, where he planned to study pre-med.
He had to work hard for both.
The sax came courtesy of Yamaha for his outstanding work in McDonald’s All-American High School Jazz Band and their All-American High School Marching Band.
But pre-med at Harvard was soon replaced by daytime engineering studies and nighttime jazz gigs around the Boston/Cambridge area. It wasn’t long before he was studying with famous sax players Jerry Bergonzi and Bill Pierce, forming his own quartet and composing and arranging selections for projects in the area.
But who needs another engineer, right? In 1984 Braden moved to New York, playing with the Harper Brothers quintet, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and Betty Carter before hooking up with a seven-month tour with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet. By now, Harvard was long in the rear-view mirror.
He returned to record with Betty Carter on “Look What I Got,” which won the Grammy Award.
He toured the Americas, Japan and Europe with Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, and others and returned to join the Freddie Hubbard Quintet and then Tom Harrell’s groups.
Since 1997 he has worked with the Mingus Big Band, Kenny Barron, J.J. Johnson, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. He also had and continues to have his own groups.
Braden also has composed for full symphonic orchestras in many styles, for film and for television, including four years with The Cosby Show.
With Joris Teepe in 2006 he composed “Vox Populi Mundi,” which premiered with a performance for Queen Beatrix of Holland.
He has spent two decades giving master classes and working with Litchfield Jazz Camp and Wachovia Jazz for Teens. He is also the musical director of the new Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens Program and visiting professor in the New York Comes to Groningen program at the Prins Claus Conservatoire in Groningen, Netherlands.
He is currently a member of the music department of Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J.
Braden comes this week to Valparaiso University to work with VU Jazz Ensemble, who will perform with him Thursday, April 18 and with the VU Faculty Jazz Trio on April 19.