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Braxton Cook’s No Doubt, an instant Neo Jazz classic

Cutting edge. Few words could better describe Maryland born Saxophonist/Singer-Songwriter Braxton Cook’s sophomore effort No Doubt. The album is a follow up to his 2017 debut Somewhere In Between, Cook’s third release, but his first full-length solo album. A graduate of Julliard School with a degree in Jazz Saxophone, Cook began his professional music career as a sideman to New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, where he worked with drummer Cory Fonville, ultimately spawning his collaboration with Fonville’s band, the aptly titled Braxton Cook Meets Butcher Brown. However, Somewhere In Between represented a turning point for Cook’s music. It was rife with his signature brand of millennial jazz but was interspersed with vibrant and lushly instrumented Neo Soul pieces, headlined by the saxophonist’s smooth vocals.

No Doubt delves further into vocal music, with Cook’s vocals featured on five of the nine songs that comprise the album. The album’s first single and second track, When You Hold Me is Cook’s strongest vocal tune, largely due to the distinct groove defined by drummer Jonathon Pinson and guitarist Andrew Refroe, as well as the choral harmonies supporting Cook’s ode to his fiance. Tracks three, five, six and seven follow a similar tone, and structure, with the bandleader delivering heartfelt messages of love, only to be followed by tastefully blistering saxophone solos. Although these tracks are excellent and showcase Cook’s versatility and range, his composition is at its strongest when he returns to his roots of instrumental jazz. Tracks such as the titular No Doubt and (in my opinion) the albums strongest track, “We Major,” feature well fleshed out instrumentals with cutting-edge saxophone lines providing the four instrumental tracks with a viciously contemporary vibe.

Braxton Cook calls his music Future Jazz Soul, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah calls his Stretch music, Kamasi Washington and Ryan Porter simply call it Jazz, while Thundercat, another member of their musical collective, the West Coast Get Down, prefers the title of Acid Jazz.  London based artists like Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective and Yussef Kamal have embraced their nationality by referring to their art as UK Jazz. I see all of these monikers as subgenres, of one of the most revolutionary and innovative movements in the history of music, brilliantly arranged jazz harmony and melody with open solo structure, all superimposed over soul and hip-hop grooves, a genre I have dubbed Neo Jazz.

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