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Graduating last month from Juilliard was freeing for Silver Spring, Md., native Braxton Cook. The alto saxophonist, who leads his own quartet and tours with the Christian Scott Sextet and the New Century Jazz Quintet, felt constrained by Juilliard’s prestigious music program. Cook completed two years at Georgetown before transferring to Juilliard on a full scholarship, but he questions whether jazz music is better served by its now decades-long embrace by academia. “I actually feel like they are pushing people back into academia” instead of adequately preparing students for careers as working musicians, he says.
Cook continues his reflection on jazz schooling in his upcoming sophomore EP, Braxton Cook Meets Butcher Brown, out July 31. This Wednesday, Cook will play a pair of shows at Bohemian Caverns as part of the DC Jazz Festival to celebrate the release, a follow-up to last year’s self-released Sketch EP. He’ll be joined by Butcher Brown, a Richmond-based jazz-funk band. Butcher Brown drummer Corey Fonville is also a member of the Christian Scott Sextet and a close friend of Cook’s.
“[The collaboration is] something really special,” Cook says. “Everybody understood it…this DMV thing. Everyone’s got this blend of gospel, R&B, and funk vernacular that we can all relate to.” The seven songs on the EP were all recorded during a one-day session last September at Butcher Brown’s Jellowstone recording studio in Richmond. The studio is in the band’s home, and its interior seems more concerned with its analog aesthetic—ideal for the recording of soul music—than being actual living quarters.
The studio gave the recording a bit of “grit to it,” Cook says. “The compositions are very groove-oriented.” Produced by Cook and Butcher Brown keyboardist Devonne Harris, all but one of the songs are Cook originals. Lead single “Ooooo,” which Cook compares to early D’Angelo, is out this week. The EP also features “Hymn,” a song inspired by the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other young black men by police officers. “I wanted to write a really sacred song for that, but one that is also accessible,” Cook says.
After the album drops on Philadelphia’s Ropeadope Records, Braxton will prepare for a late summer-early fall tour with the Christian Scott Sextet. (He’ll also be featured on Scott’s upcoming fall album, currently untitled.) Cook intends ore recording and gigs with Butcher Brown coming up. “Playing with these guys, who feel like family, brings something extra out of me. It feels like a true representation of who I am.”
Braxton Cook Meets Butcher Brown, Wednesday June 10 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. $20-25, Bohemian Caverns, (202) 299-0800.
Photo by William Brown