But, I never had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Branker, at that time the director of the Program in Jazz Studies at Princeton University, leader of the improvising ensembles, and teacher of a number of different courses (he has since stepped down and Rudresh Mahanthappa will take over the program in the Fall of this year.) His debut album, "For the Children" (Sons of Sound Productions), was recorded in 1980 when he was a senior in the Music Department at Princeton (featuring a young Stanley Jordan on guitar) but not released until 2005. Just 4 months later, Sons of Sound released "Spirit Songs" featuring a sextet known as Ascent including Ralph Bowen (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Ralph Peterson (drums). Dr. Branker, who played trumpet for many years but had to stop due to health issues in 1999, contributed all the compositions and arrangements.
Anthony Branker's new album, "Beauty Within," has just been released by Origin Records (his 7th for the label, three each by Ascent and Word Play) and I could not resist the urge to speak with him. Not only because the music is so exciting, thoughtful, powerful, and hopeful but also because he's named this group Imagine and the music speaks to his dreams. The quintet that plays this music lives up to its name by taking the music off the printed page and giving it vitality as well as a commanding presence. (The interview - really a conversation - will air August 21 at 12 noon on WLIS and WMRD in Old Saybrook and Middletown CT respectively - online at www.wliswmrd.net and on the TuneIn Radio app).
One track led me to GOOGLE. "Loving Day (June 12)" is named for the day in 1967 when the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states. The case before the court, "Loving vs Virginia" pitted an interracial couple (Mildred and Richard Loving) who had married and were arrested and forced to move out of Virginia. The couple brought the case to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and, several years later, the Supreme Court unanimously voted the law unconstitutional. Do you need to know that to enjoy the music? No, but the story informs the music and musicians, adding more power to an already powerful composition.
For more information, go to www.anthonybranker.com and/or to originarts.com/recordings/recording.php?TitleID=82719.