143. Don Braden / The Voice of the Saxophone (1997)
Braden plays a big sounding tenor and does an admirable job arranging for his octet (which is occasionally a quartet, as with "After the Rain"). He carries most of the groove but there's also Vincent Herring, Randy Brecker, Frank Lacy and Hamiett Bluiett. The arrangements are nimble, often carried by a piano continuo, and they balance the group's massed power with spaces that feature the soloists. It's clever, and I'll forget that I'm listening to an octet before a big blast reminds me to count the pieces. The opener is Hank Mobley's swinging "Soul Station." There's a lot of good hard bop in the playlist, like Shorter's "See No Evil," or Jimmy Heath's "Voice of the Saxophone." It all sounds fresh. There's also Sam Rivers' tricky "Point of Many Returns" and some solid originals by Braden like "The Dust Kicker" and "Cozy," (nice solo by Brecker here). "Monk's Hat," which is the tune we all know as the theme from the Cosby Show, is appreciated but might be more appropriately placed at the end of the album. Kitsch aside, I like that last one well enough because it reminds me of watching Cosby! Hats off to Braden and crew for an outing that's enjoyable, danceable, and even holds a few surprises.