The Jazz Project

249

Higher •••
Nelson and Wayne Braxton 
Higher is a return to the smooth/contemporary jazz sandbox the Braxton Brothers are best known for playing in, especially with their focus on crafting irresistible melodies. Most notable is the exuberant “The Only Woman In The World.” Mr. Nelson’s supple basslines and Mr. Wayne’s gregarious tenor and alto sax share euphonic, evocative tales of elated reunion (“Back In My Arms”); inner beauty vs. outer facades (“Beauty”); pursuing goals with faith (“Where I Wanna Be”); finding satisfaction in being loved (“Just To Be Loved”); the encouragement to look up when you’re down in a dark place (“What Would I Do”); and the comforting reassurance of having a loved one close and present (“I’ll Be Here”).

The Braxton Brothers hitch their rich, indelible harmonies to funky R&B grooves, dynamic pop-rock rhythms, sensually soulful urban beats and breezy reggae vibes. Mr. Nelson flexes his dexterous multi-instrumental prowess on “Higher” via bass (rhythm and lead), keyboards, percussion, drum programming, electric and acoustic guitar. Mr. Wayne handles saxophones, drum programming and background vocals. Chris Camozzi, Errol Cooney, Kay-Ta Matsuno, Ryan Parrino and Andy Quinn spike the tracks with electric and acoustic guitar.

Remembering You •••
Dee Brown, saxophonist
Dee Brown exuberantly picks and scats the next chapter in his intimate musical scrapbook assembled for his late fiancée. “I Want You Too” is an upbeat and vibrant celebration of contemporary jazz, R&B and pop chronicling the romance he had with the late gospel singer Shaunia Edwards. The album is sweetened by Valdez Brantley’s synth string embellishments and Dezie McCullers Jr.’s alto saxophone shading. The effervescent “I Want You Too” highlights Mr. Brown’s expressive and lyrical fretwork, serving as an evocative narrator of his enduring love for Ms. Edwards.

Embrace •••
Jeff Ryan, saxophonist
Saxman Jeff Ryan is excited and for good reason. The contemporary pop instrumentalist’s debut single, “Up and Up,” flew to No.1 on the Billboard chart as well as on three other charts in the US and UK. Mr. Ryan’s debut album, Embrace, which he wrote and produced with keyboardist Greg Manning, is a vital tribute to their great relationship as musicians. Embrace is a magnetic ten-tracker – nine Mr. Ryan originals and a honeyed reading of Bruno Mars’ “Versace on the Floor” – bonding lustrous and lyrical pop harmonies to meaty urban beats, refined contemporary jazz vamps and soul grooves. Joining the two musicians are two first-call sidemen who have transitioned in recent years into hit-making solo artists: guitarist Adam Hawley and drummer Eric Valentine. A pair of veteran guitarists add significant contributions as well. Darrell Crooks dispenses slick and soulful R&B licks throughout the session while Terry Wollman strums temperate acoustic guitar melodies on the set’s gentle closer, “Tenderly.”