Track By Track: Rick Braun, “Crossroads” Exclusive Album Stream

Crossroads, the 18th album as a leader by trumpeter and chart-topping contemporary jazz pioneer Rick Braun, is due out August 16 via Shanachie Entertainment and we’re delighted to present an exclusive stream of the LP ahead of its release, which you can listen to via the player below.

He’s joined on this date by friends old and new, including keyboardist Philippe Saisse, guitarist Peter White, bassist Nate Phillips, tenor-man Richard Elliot, drummer Eric Valentine and percussionist Richie Garcia. He also welcomes some first-time collaborators: keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, guitarist Michael Thompson and drummer Gregg Bissonette.

This anticipated new CD features a program mixing hot new originals with interpretations of songs by Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars. All of these tracks give listeners an intimate glimpse into Braun’s inspirations. “As musicians and people in general, we are all a collection of the places we’ve been,” he explains, “things we’ve heard, seen and done, and people we’ve loved and who have loved us. At this point in life, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make music. I think I’m just very comfortable with where I am in life right now.”

We asked Braun to take us through each track of Crossroads to understand the inspiration behind each song and some of the work that went into the making of this new album.

“Around the Corner”

So much of what I do and have done throughout my career is to get people up on their feet, moving and having a good time! I look at music as a release from all the other stuff that’s going on in the world. I wrote this track with exactly that in mind. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just get up, have a good time and forget about everything else that’s going on. My daughter Emma knows how to do that better than anybody else in the world. I always envision her out by the pool dancing away in the middle of the day. If I said “Around the Corner” was inspired by the sound of her dancing about, I would be telling the absolute truth.

“Brazz Street”

“Brazz Street” is a track that I co-wrote with Chris “Big Dog” Davis. Chris has helped me out on so many projects in the past, including the Dave Koz records that I have produced. When Chris sent me this track and I heard the foundation, I immediately thought of those vintage detective shows or some retro groove from the ‘70s. I was instantly inspired with a melody and I really enjoyed writing the horn parts that accompany the melody. Chris did an amazing job and “Brazz Street” features David Dyson on bass. I mix the CDs myself and for whatever reason, this particular mix came together so well. On this project, I spent a lot of time getting the drums to sound great and this track is a showcase for that. Eric Valentine is the drummer featured on the track.

“Crossroads”

This track is a joint effort between myself and Philippe Saisse. We have collaborated numerous times on number one songs, including “Tijuana Dance.” This track started out as something totally different. Philippe brought me an EDM track that sounded like a Berlin disco. I played it for my co-producer Bud Hamer and we both agreed the melody was wonderful but everything else needed to change. Thankfully, Philippe was open to the new direction and he jumped right in. I’m so thrilled that this is a feature for him as well as for me. Philippe is one of my dearest friends and one of the most talented people on the planet!

“The Moment I Saw You”

Sometimes, the best songs happen without trying. This song was a last-minute addition to the project. I had other songs ready to go but after living with it, I decided that they just didn’t fit the vibe. I sat down one night and was inspired to write “The Moment I Saw You” in about an hour. By the next day, I had all of the horn parts and the melody, and it was pretty much done except for adding live musicians. I love this song. It’s really just one of those tunes that allows you to let the groove go on and on in a live setting, and to take you wherever you want to go.

“I Wish”

Who doesn’t love Stevie Wonder?! Maybe there’s one guy I don’t know… but I certainly love him. I have two cover songs on this project and this is one of them. I wanted to put my own spin on this Stevie classic and change the form up. As a vocal, it worked really well in its existing form, but for me playing the trumpet, I needed to hear more verse. I don’t know what Stevie would have to say about that. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to find out.

There’s an acoustic bass on this track played by Ken Wild, and he did a fantastic job just laying down that groove, and the walking and putting a jazz element on the solo section. To me, this track has a combination of hip-hop and a bit of ‘40s big band thrown in. I used a plunger on my trumpet to get that old-time sound. Greg Phillinganes plays the keyboards on this track and I was so grateful that he did because he played with both Stevie and Michael Jackson. This is definitely a fun track and a tough one to sit still while you’re listening to it.

“Me and You”

Peter White has joined me on so many of my songs. We have collaborated over the years and produced some really wonderful tracks together. He is one of my closest friends and he is featured on this song. When he puts his fingers on the strings of that guitar, there’s no mistaking who it is. Back in 1982, I toured with the group War. One of the songs that we used to perform live was “Summer.” I’ve always loved that song and I wanted to write something that had that vibe. This is another example of a song that went down so effortlessly. Peter and I sat in the studio and just played together over top of the groove. It really was a joy and I hope that joy translates.

“Family”

When I was working on the new album and I would have someone come over to listen to the progress, this was the song that I would play for them. There is history to this song. The melody was inspired by a song that I heard when I was just a little boy and my grandmother would play the piano. There was a song written in the 1890s called “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” For some reason, that melody was the first thing that came to mind when I played over the groove that was inspired by some of the music that my daughter listens to.

This song represents a generational inspiration starting with my grandmother and ending with my daughter. That’s why it’s called “Family.” I sent the track to Michael Thompson to add guitar to and what he sent back transformed this song into something very, very, very special. So many wonderful musicians participated in the music and lifted it up with their amazing gifts. All of these collaborations have become some of the wonderful things about this project.

“Bahia”

This song is named after a band that I used to play with back in the late ‘70s when I first moved to Los Angeles. The great drummer Carlos Vega was in this band. Philippe Saisse and I co-write “Bahia.” We were inspired by his production work on the great Gato Barbieri’s project, Qué Pasa. This is probably one of my favorite songs on the record. One of the reasons is because the great drummer Greg Bissonette is playing on it. I have been wanting him to play on my projects for years and for the first time, he was in town and not on the road. “Bahia” also features the beautiful guitar playing of Ramon Stagnaro, laying down some hypnotic Brazilian groove. I would love one day to do a full project of this kind of music!

“Come With Me”

I love the sound of a horn section. When I listen to this track, it brings back memories of Earth, Wind & Fire. “Come With Me” was the first tune that I wrote for this project and it continues to be one of my favorites. Once again, Eric Valentine is playing drums and he did an amazing job. There’s a lot of syncopation and a lot of horn hits that go with it, so Eric had his work cut out for him. I think the end result is something very special.

“Versace on the Floor”

The final cut on the CD is one of my wife’s favorite songs. Besides the saying “happy wife, happy life,” there is also the fact that she absolutely knows good music when she hears it! My son Kyle played the piano intro on it. I’m really thrilled that he wanted to do this because he’s really not looking to become a professional musician. He’s more of a basketball player but he loves music and he does it very well.

The track was co-produced once again by Chris “Big Dog” Davis, who did an absolutely stellar job. When I listen to this track, one of the things that stands out to me the most is Nate Phillips’ amazing bass playing on it. He really stepped out and played some wonderful fills to lift the track to a whole other level. I approached this as more of a classical song than a jazz song and really focused on playing my parts with as much sincerity as possible.

For more information on Rick Braun and his new album, visit him online.

Photo courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment.

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