Dynamic...Energetic...Charismatic...Warm-hearted... These are just a few adjectives that have been used to describe saxophonist Tom Braxton, whose distinct, melodic sound has been thrilling audiences of all ages from coast to coast and abroad for nearly two decades. This versatile instrumentalist and gifted composer is a seasoned performer who has the amazing ability to "grab the heart-strings" of the audience within the first few minutes of his show; engage them with his exceptional skill, wit, and charm; and leave them astounded, clapping, and on their feet screaming for more! That's why Jazz Review calls Braxton "one of smooth jazz's most prolific saxophonists...with all the required tools to become a major force." This native Texan has recorded nine albums including The Other Side (2016 Sanae/Braxton collaboration), The Next Chapter (2014), Endless Highway (2009), and Imagine This (2007) on the Pacific Coast Jazz label and Bounce (2005) on the Rendezvous label. The Next Chapter features Grammy winners Bob James, Earl Klugh, and Ricky Lawson, as well as one of Smooth Jazz's most beloved guitarists, Peter White, who all lend their amazing talents to stellar duets with Tom's lyrical saxophone. Braxton's music can be heard on radio and television airwaves nationwide, and his albums have hit numerous jazz charts including Billboard, RadioWave, SmoothJazz.com, Groove Jazz Music, Capital Jazz Radio, and Amazon. He has been a featured performer and fan favorite on the Smooth Jazz Cruise since 2005. He has also garnered rave reviews overseas, performing as a headliner on the Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival in Portugal, twice on the Ghana Jazz Festival, the Smooth Jazz Europe Festival in the Netherlands, and the Nile Gold Jazz Safari in Uganda. He was also a featured performer on the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Braxton is currently touring with Earl Klugh in the U.S., South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, and Japan, and he has also performed with Keiko Matsui in Russia, Eastern Europe, Malaysia, and Japan. For 17 years, Tom toured extensively with Wayman Tisdale as his Musical Director. Braxton has shared the stage with many great artists including Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Peter White, Brian Culbertson, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer, Warren Hill, Bob James, Lee Ritenour, Paul Brown, Paul Jackson Jr., George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Jeff Golub, Norman Brown, Sheila E., Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, and Phillip Bailey. He has been featured in media and publications such as JAZZIZ, Smooth Jazz News, The Saxophone Journal, CBS's The Saturday Early Show, Ugandan Television, and Daystar Television Network.
"One of the most respected and loved sax men in Smooth Jazz...
Tom Braxton is a treasure...incredibly talented composer,
producer, and musician." ~ SmoothJazz.com
Saxophonist and composer Tom Braxton understands his purpose on earth is to create music that touches our hearts. That's why Jazz Review calls Braxton "one of smooth jazz's most prolific saxophonists...with all the required tools to become a major force." A seasoned performer, who knows how to charm audiences of all ages, Braxton has his own distinctive and recognizable sound which incorporates elements of Jazz, Latin, Funk, and R&B and leaves listeners spellbound, filled with a sense of joy as his music swirls through your soul.
But jazz didn't always come easy growing up in the dusty plains of Lubbock, Texas where it all began for Tom Braxton. As unlikely an environment as it was for a boy to dream of being a jazz musician, Tom fortunately had a direct link to this creative art form through his dad, James ("J.T.") Braxton. "I have to credit my dad with connecting me to jazz at an early age. He introduced me to all the jazz legends: Lester Young, Miles, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stitt, Getz, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and many more. He would share how he had heard Count Basie and Duke's original bands and the great Ella Fitzgerald. He put the alto sax in my hands in the 6th grade, after I had been playing piano for two years. At the age of 95, my dad still plays his tenor sax and violin everyday, and he's still gigging!" After graduating valedictorian from high school, Tom attended Texas Tech University on track and music scholarships. "I love to run, and the 200, 400, and 1600-meter relay were my best events." This fact explains his driving energy and stamina on stage today.
Tom with dad, James ("J.T.")
During his college years, Braxton formed the jazz-fusion band "No Compromise" which toured the southwest and opened concerts for Joe Sample, Stanley Clarke, George Howard, and many others. The band performed many of Tom's original compositions, which helped to fine-tune his writing style. Tom decided to launch his solo career after graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music/Performance degree. His first act of business was to join forces with keyboardist and producer Bernard Wright to release his solo debut album, Your Move. "The highlight of my first release was having the opportunity to record a duet with long-time friend Kirk Whalum on the song 'Peacemaker.'" Bernard Wright not only produced Braxton's first CD, but also was instrumental in connecting him to a gifted musician/producer who would elevate Tom to the national touring circuit, Wayman Tisdale. "I have to credit Bernard Wright with getting me the gig with Wayman. I flew to Sacramento and played with Wayman where we opened a concert for the Yellowjackets. I'll never forget it...it was 1992!" Tom then toured extensively with Wayman Tisdale for 17 years, serving as Musical Director for 10 of those years. Wayman was quoted saying, "When I'm on the road, Tom is the saxophonist I want to have with me. I love that sweet sound he gets on the horn."
Braxton's solo career continued with his second album, Katallasso, that mixed memorable, easy funk melodies with some unique production touches. In April 1998, the CD was released internationally on Positive Music Records and featured the talents of Kirk Whalum, Paul Jackson Jr., Bill Maxwell, and Bill Cantos. The next two albums took a brief departure from mainstream smooth jazz by connecting with Tom's spiritual side. In 1999, he released an instrumental praise and worship CD entitled Face to Face followed two years later with the release of a Christmas album, Comfort and Joy, that presented Braxton's fresh arrangements of traditional and contemporary holiday favorites. His friend and mentor, Wayman Tisdale, produced his fifth release, Bounce, for Dave Koz's label, Rendezvous Entertainment. "I remember Wayman approached me with the idea of doing a recording together," said Braxton. "I was very excited about the project and the creative juices began to flow. We had a lot of fun in the studio playing with grooves and melodies and as a result the CD, Bounce, was born."
In 2007, Tom added a new CD to his discography, Imagine This, on the Pacific Coast Jazz label. "The album kicks off with one of my favorite songs, 'Peg,' by Steely Dan which is a band I've always admired. I wanted to cover that song for years and when I finally got the opportunity, I was thrilled to include the unique vocal work of Kevin Whalum." SmoothJazz.com wrote, "[Tom Braxton] absolutely blows me away with his album Imagine This. I'm imagining that this will be the big breakout release for a career that is really kicking into high gear."
In 2009, on the heels of finishing his next Pacific Coast Jazz label CD release, shocking news hit Braxton when Wayman Tisdale lost his battle with cancer. "Wayman was a gifted musician and a great friend that I will always miss. I stood on his right side for 17 years and it was my goal to make him sound great every night. Through the years, I became good at blending my sound with his, a valued skill I learned while in his band. Wayman's passing is a reminder of our mortality and it has made me even more determined to live my life to fulfill the purpose God has for me."
A few months after Wayman's death, Tom released his seventh CD, Endless Highway. The disc highlights Braxton as a composer, producer, and arranger along with six of his original compositions that feature his effortless transition from soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones to showcasing his versatility on piano, keyboards, and flute. Bursting with exhilarating grooves and sizzling hot horn arrangements, Endless Highway manages to lift Braxton to a new level of artistry and is a testament to the many challenges Tom has faced along his highway of life. Joined by an outstanding array of instrumentalists and vocalists, this recording is a toe-tapping, colorful, groove-oriented excursion with a sophisticated urban flavor that will make you feel like dancing and singing all day long. From the first and title track, "Endless Highway," which signifies the beginning of this rhythmic ride, to the final track, "Home Sweet Home," that transports us to the end of the CD that chronicles the many experiences we face in life, Braxton creatively completes the full circle of a smooth jazz journey.
Smooth Jazz Cruise
After a long break from the studio, Braxton teamed up with the late Ricky Lawson, "the drummer to the stars," to produce his eighth CD, The Next Chapter, which is also dedicated to Lawson and Tom's mother who passed away in January of 2014. Grammy winners Bob James, Earl Klugh, and Ricky Lawson, as well as one of the most beloved and talented guitarists, Peter White, all lend their amazing talents to stellar duets with Tom's lyrical saxophone. The album presents Braxton at his best from up-tempo grooves to reflective ballads. When listening to the record, it's easy to feel the love, joy, and positive energy that is inherent in the music. There is something here for all jazz fans! The recording features Braxton wearing many hats as usual. Aside from his performances on soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, he also adds flute and keyboards to many of the arrangements. In addition to serving as producer on the project, Braxton wrote and arranged most of the material with help from Lawson. "I have always admired Ricky, so when he approached me on the Smooth Jazz Cruise and offered to help me with my new project, I couldn't believe it!! Before I knew it, I was in L.A., in his studio, working with him and some of the industry's finest musicians," says Braxton. "It was like a dream come true. I had no idea that a few short weeks after this session, we would lose such a talented and generous human being." Braxton reflects, "After Ricky's death, his engineer told me that Lawson's last session in his studio was drum over-dubs on the track, 'New Horizons.' I will always treasure the time I spent with Ricky. His passion, energy, and skill positively impacted this project and lifted it to another level."
In July 2016, Tom released a new collaborative album, The Other Side, with Robert Sanae on the Pacific Coast Jazz label. Just like the perfect cup of coffee, Sanae and Braxton have brewed a delicious blend of contemporary, chill, and smooth jazz. Sanae's nine originals and the Stylistics' classic "People Make the World Go Round" feature his mellow trumpet with Braxton's complimentary soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. Robert's keyboards and production worked hand in hand with Tom's ideas as they co-produced and added friends Al Turner (bassist for Earl Klugh) and flutist Bradley Leighton (Pacific Coast Jazz). Turner adds plenty of spice to Sanae's take on "People Make the World Go 'Round" and the Wayman Tisdale tribute "What's up Tis?" With the bouncy "The Finer Things," Sanae, Braxton, and guitarist Chris Bowman trade melodic lines over a hypnotic groove. Robert's haunting trumpet soars through the title track, "The Other Side," with Tom's alto and tenor right by his side. Sanae's production skills are showcased on "Groovis" as he gives himself and Braxton's tenor a perfect place to share an energetic melody. Guitarist Chris Bowman shines again on Sanae's dreamy "City by Night," which captures the mood of the urban landscape complete with street lights, neon signs, and moonlight. "Sharolyn's Eyes," written for a friend's wife, spotlights Braxton's smooth tenor with Robert's melodic trumpet and keyboards as they all join the party in the grooving solo section. "Castle by the Sea" is a nice change of pace for the romantics with its soothing acoustic guitar and catchy vocal phrases that whisk us away to a castle by the sea. The album is completed by the Latin-flavored "A Time for Tea," which adds Leighton's flute to the recipe, and the ballad "Infinitely You," which features Tom's lyrical soprano in an "unplugged" setting. This collaboration marks a first for Sanae and Braxton and it is very comfortable and productive. There is a spark between these two that we certainly hope to see again down the road in their musical journeys.
Through the years, Tom has shared the stage with many well-known artists including Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Peter White, Candy Dulfer, Brian Culbertson, Bob James, George Duke, Earl Klugh, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Warren Hill, Jeff Golub, Marcus Miller, Keiko Matsui, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Sheila E., and Phillip Bailey. Tom has opened concerts for numerous jazz greats including Norman Brown, Boney James, Najee, Dave Brubeck, Cab Calloway, Spyro Gyra, The Rippingtons, David Benoit, Pieces of a Dream, Michael Franks, and The Crusaders. He has been a featured performer and fan favorite on the Smooth Jazz Cruise since 2005. He has also garnered rave reviews overseas, performing as a headliner on the Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival in Portugal, twice on the Ghana Jazz Festival, the Smooth Jazz Europe Festival in the Netherlands, and the Nile Gold Jazz Safari in Uganda. He was also a featured performer on the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Braxton has toured abroad with Earl Klugh in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, and Japan, and with Keiko Matsui in Russia, Eastern Europe, Malaysia, and Japan. Over the years, Braxton has been featured or appeared in media and publications such as JAZZIZ, Smooth Jazz News, CBS's The Saturday Early Show, Ugandan Television, BET's Jazz Central, TBS, TNT, ESPN, CNN, NBC's Inside Stuff, ABC's Good Morning Texas, the Fox Network's Good Day Dallas, ABC's Sacramento & Co., and Daystar Television Network.
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