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Rick Braun Encourages Feeling His Smooth Jazz, Not Just Getting Lost In It

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of.

Week of 07/18/2014
WHO: Rick Braun
WHAT: Can You Feel It
SPOT: 172

"Can you feel it" is a bold question coming from a smooth jazz player, a genre that more often than not invites listeners to get lost in the music rather than connect with it. Braun, a longtime trumpet player out of Allentown, PA (hometown of jazz legend Keith Jarrett), keeps the notes coming and does it on his terms, rather than the lull of American standards featured on his last solo LP, Sings With Strings. Although the album art isn't quite accurate (seemingly suggest a rave), Can You Feel It is meant for moving.

"Take Me To The River" is the only track here that features vocals, but the backing instrumentals inspires groove where Sings With Strings couldn't (American standards are the antithesis of groove). The slow, blues ode "Another Kind of Blue" slows things down temporarily, but the ever-present bass and B3 Hammond organ ensure that tracks like the title number and the self-evident "Dr. Funkenstein" keeps listeners on their feet.

Braun of course deserves credit for riding the groove with his own instrument, quickly and smoothly. The peak performance on the album is when he and buddy Dave Koz match each other in a back and forth between trumpet and saxophone toward the end of "Get Up and Dance."

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