Dallas resident and internationally acclaimed saxophonist Tom Braxton thrills people - including himself - for a living.
The smooth jazz superstar has made good by following the sage advice, "...do what you love, and the money will follow." In fact, we venture a guess that the world is full of great sax men. Millions of great sax men who are working steadily in smooth jazz in 2010? Not so much.
Braxton admits life can be more than rough in the wake of the recession, and in the age where many Smooth Jazz radio stations are dying, one by one, Corporate sponsors, concert promoters, everyone is tightening his or her belt these days.
But he has advice for fellow artists in his genre who are wondering how to survive.
"You just have to get out there and play it live," he mused. "You have to just go to the people live, and sell your disc after the shows." He obviously knows whereof he speaks. Aside from the big all-star smooth jazz cruises, Braxton says he does very little in the way of traditional touring. Rather, he plays almost anywhere and everywhere - all the time. He just returned stateside earlier this month, after playing a big festival entitled Smooth Jazz Europe in The Netherlands. And these days he's playing frequently in his own backyard, i.e., Dallas/Fort Worth.
It was in Funkytown (Fort Worth) a couple of weeks ago, in fact, where Braxton and fellow saxophonist Kirk Whalum lit the night for thousands of appreciative 'neighbors' at the Main Street Arts Festival. Throughout his set Braxton kept most, if not all of us, off our seats and on our feet.
Later this spring and throughout the summer he will make stops at various other points throughout the U.S., including a gig in Hollywood in June with Keiko Matsui, then back to Europe in September to headline with Bob Baldwin and Chieli Minucci.
Braxton's latest CD, entitled Endless Highway, was released in October, 2009 and quickly found itself at #21 on the Billboard Top 100 - Smooth Jazz.
He says the name of the CD came from his own metaphor for life.
"Life itself is an endless highway," he said. "The life’s journey, the ups and downs of life, the smooth parts of the highway, and the rough, the ups and downs and open roads. And I was definitely inspired by those long stretches of highway that are pretty blank and flat."
One of those 'rough parts' Braxton faced was nearly a year ago when his good friend and fellow smooth jazz icon Wayman Tisdale lost his two-year battle with cancer. The beloved bassist and former college and NBA basketball star is honored on Endless Highway with a tune called That Wayman Smile.
But Tom Braxton has also had no small degree of smooth stretches and happy landings. Blissfully married for more than 20 years to wife Sharon (they have two sons - Ian and Julian), our man Tom has had more than a little bit of 'sweet inspiration.'
The rest of the Endless Highway CD is largely upbeat, funky, and filled with infectious grooves like The Journey, Open Road, and Just in Time, as well as a dance-able cover of the 1970s rock band America's classic, Ventura Highway.
Whether you are heading out on a road trip, or simply relaxing at home Endless Highway will provide the perfect soundtrack for a starry evening. Visit Tom Braxton's website, listen to the samples and we're sure your next trip will be to i-Tunes or Amazon.com to pick up this amazing CD.
You can see Tom Braxton perform live on Friday, April 30th at Buttons Restaurant. Buttons is located at 4700 W. Freeway, Fort Worth, Texas. Call Buttons for more information, at 817.735.4900.
Tom Braxton will also perform two shows on May 8th at Bishop Arts Theater Center, located at 215 So. Tyler Street, Dallas Texas 75208. Call Jazz Alive at Bishop Arts Theater Center at 214.948.0716 for tickets and more information.