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The New Cool: A Saxman Raises His Voice

Parker Miles Blohm
Braxton Cook playing in the KNKX studios with Christian Scott's band in 2015.

When I first met Braxton Cook, he was playing saxophone with the amazing trumpeter Christian Scott's band, live in our studios in the Fall of 2015. There was something intangible I noticed, maybe just his gregarious personality, but I knew there was more to be heard from Mr. Cook. How much more is a pleasant surprise.

Braxton Cook's debut album Somewhere in Between was released last year on the Portland label Fresh Selects, with his singing sharing the spotlight with saxophone. His vocal delivery is strong and confident, settling nicely into the world of modern soul. No comparison to one of his heroes, Bill Withers, it's a personal voice that carries the cool emotions of his generation.

Talking with, Cook explains his new move to sax playing singer/songwriter, "As a modern day jazz musician and Millennial at the same time, I like to blend the lines between genres and styles while still maintaining elements of the tradition." As such, this album has everything needed to cross over into the ears of soul music fans who may come away with a foot-in-the-door of jazz appreciation as well.

The album includes an accelerated version of his instrumental "FJYD", a tune from his previous collaboration with his friends in Virginia, Braxton Cook Meets Butcher Brown. Cook will remain an inspiration to fellow sax players, even as he follows his singer/songwriter muse. He's said, "my sound and musical identity has always been in between the soul music that I grew up on and the jazz that I have studied and grown to love."

As the audience for modern music continues to break down the stiff walls of genre segregation, Braxton Cook sets himself up as a creative artist who's appealing to a wider pop audience without sacrificing the complexity of his jazz skills.

On this week's New Cool, you'll hear Cook back-to-back in performance with Christian Scott's band live in our studios, and singing the title song from his latest. No doubt there's plenty to love in both sides of Braxton Cook

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5p, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.