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  • Jonathan Widran


From his 17 years (10 as Musical Director) with the late great Wayman Tisdale to his more recent international tours with Earl Klugh, Tom Braxton’s ubiquitous presence onstage and renown as one of contemporary urban jazz’s premiere sideman can sometimes obscure his own melodic and rhythmic innovation and craftsmanship as an amazingly prolific and impactdful artist in his own right.

Closing in on 30 years since his debut album Your Move, the versatile saxophonist – taking his trademark vibrantly soulful style to the next level – creates the perfect uplifting messaging for this stage of the pandemic with Lookin’ Up,” the cheerful, funky and horn-section spiced lead and title single from his Innervisions Records debut. Also perfectly reflective of that spirit of optimism and renewal is the album’s second Billboard charting single, the sly, sensual yet whimsical “Hope for Tomorrow," featuring the dazzling keyboard harmonies and otherworldly soloing by the legendary Bob James.

Though the set is chock full of uplifting, in the pocket R&B-jazz – including the exotic, African tinged “Joyful Dance (for Leona), the snazzy brass-fired jam “The J Factor” and “Sharon’s Groove” – some of the deeper pleasures include the unique sonic treasures Braxton uncovers via his snappy, low key then wildly funked out twist on “Eleanor Rigby,” his lyrical, hypnotic breeze through the spiritual “What a Friend” and a passionate revisit to the LeAnn Rimes popularized pop ballad “How Do I Live?” – the latter whose message takes on a deeper meaning during these challenging times. It’s great to see things Lookin’ Up – both for us AND Braxton, who is helping us cast our eyes and ears in a more positive direction.

Listen to Lookin' Up here:


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