Downbeat Magazine Big Funk Review


Don Braden/
Karl Latham
Big Fun(k) Live
Recorded over a series of gigs at
Cecil’s Jazz Club in West
Orange, N.J., Big Fun(k) Live
brings together a powerhouse
quartet of old friends who seem
hell-bent on having a ball. It’s a
funky, electried jam on seven contemporary-leaning original tunes and
two covers (Beyonce’s “Deja Vu” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Lucy In
The Sky With Diamonds”) spanning a range of styles from bebop to
rock. The title, an obvious reference to one of Miles Davis’ electric-era
albums, pretty much says it all.
Saxophonist Don Braden was playing instrumental rock and funk
long before he ever became known as a Young Lion of straightahead
jazz in the ’80s—and it shows in his well-developed, hard-hitting solos,
which unfold with brains and brawn over the bedrock laid down by
drummer/co-leader Karl Latham, electric bassist Gary Foote (of Blood,
Sweat And Tears fame) and New York synth man Nick Rolfe. Big Fun(k)
Live is thick with compelling improvisations by outstanding instrumentalists
who are clearly enjoying every minute spent together onstage.
The tunes are decent, but the real meat of this recording can be found
in the expertly executed arrangements and the high-ying solos, which
must have been a gas to see and hear live in the club. —Ed Enright

Big Funk with the Ohio Players Thursday August 22nd

Aug 22 , 2013


New Jersey Performing Arts Center



Sounds of the City

Eight exciting concerts. FREE admission. Discover why Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City is THE place to meet and mingle on Thursday evenings in the summertime.

A smash of the Seventies, “Love Rollercoaster” put The Ohio Players on a trajectory to the Billboard charts, where their street funk and underground R&B were also heard on “Fire” and “Skin Tight.” One of the busiest touring bands in the business, the nine musicians encourage enthusiastic dancing and singing to their

1 of 3 8/12/13 10:27 PM

New Jersey Performing Arts Center :: The Ohio Players

supercool grooves.


5pm: Big Fun(k)

6:15-7:30pm: The Ohio Players

Big Funk at WNTI Summer Stage August 18th

IMG_2064 copyCatch Big Funk at the Main Stage August 18th


Big Funk on O’s Place 2012 Best Contemporary Jazz List

2012 Contemporary Jazz Golden Selections
O’s 5-Rated Performances
Artist Title Label
David Gilmore Numerology Evolutionary Music
Aaron Hardin Coming Home For Christmas Grooveworks Entertainment
R&B Jazz
Axel Schwintzer Uncommon Sense Armored Records
Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Heads Up
R&B Jazz
Bob Baldwin Betcha By Golly Wow Peak
R&B Jazz
Don Braden & Karl Latham Big Funk Creative Perspective
Fo/Mo/Deep A Beautiful Bang RH Media
Lee Ritenour Rhythm Sessions Concord
Yonrico Scott Be In My World Blue Canoe
R&B Jazz

JazzTimes Review of Don Braden/Karl Latham “Big Funk”


Don Braden and Karl Latham
Big Fun(k) Live
Creative Perspective
By Owen Cordle

Big Fun(k) is a synchronized rhythm machine. Not that it sounds mechanical; rather, each player primarily emphasizes rhythm, and all the parts interconnect—drum backbeats, bass grooves, keyboard riffs and colors and (mostly) pentatonic tenor saxophone figures. Joining leaders Don Braden (tenor sax and alto flute) and Karl Latham (drums) on this live session are Nick Rolfe (keyboards) and Gary Foote (bass). Except for the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Beyonce’s “Déjà Vu,” the compositions are originals.

The tunes invite macho tenor playing. Braden’s “The Funky View,” on which he solos with blitz-like swirling runs, is a technically dazzling example, as is his “Grover Miles,” which—you guessed it—mixes elements from Grover Washington Jr. and Miles Davis. There’s more Braden brilliance on “Having a Ball,” a solo tenor prelude to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and the quartet gives the Lennon/McCartney classic a soulful treatment, with shimmering keyboard support. Rolfe’s “A Foote in the Door” features bassist Foote soloing with Jaco-like flamboyance. Throughout the album, Rolfe sparks the ensemble with a variety of keyboard effects and in-the-pocket jabs. Latham is an unshakable catalyst.

In the end, the album title is spot-on: This band is nothing if not fun—and genuinely cooperative. You get the picture that each player is listening to the others and responding for the benefit of the whole.

Don Braden/Karl Latham: “Big Fun(k) Live” JazzHistory Review

Don Braden/Karl Latham: “Big Fun(k) Live” (Creative Perspective 3001)
by Ellen Johnson
Don Braden and Karl Latham’s new album, “Big Fun(k) Live” explores new territories in jazz and funk with hard-hitting grooves, clever riffs and sophisticated harmonies. The project was recorded over three nights at Cecil’s Jazz Club in West Orange, New Jersey. Saxophonist Braden cut his teeth early on playing instrumental funk and jazz of the 1970s and then became one of the “young lions” of the 1980’s touring with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes. Drummer Latham broke out on the New York jazz scene in the late 1980s, and since 1993 has gravitated to the European jazz scene sharing the stage with Joe Lovano, John Lee, and Boris Kozlov. Keyboardist Nick Rolfe shines on every track with synthesizer grooves, neo-soul and world beat chops. But it is bassist Gary Foote’s pure funk solos and perfectly pocketed grooves with Latham that fuels the excitement of the band. The master bassist is best known for his 20-year plus association with Blood, Sweat and Tears as well as with Billy Cobham. “The main difference with our music now is that we probably use more non-diatonic harmony than our predecessors,” said Braden. “That’s not an innovation per se; we’re just using material from our experience with today’s modern jazz, so naturally it will sound different than the 1970s. I’m not as concerned about moving the style forward as I am interested in the potential for creating expressive music and magical moments in real time.”

The first track, “High Rise” sets the mood and groove one would expect from this high caliber group. Foote’s solo eight bar intro reminds us of all the things we love about funk like strong riffs and lines with “popped” high notes and thumb-slapped bass.The drums and Fender Rhodes piano join in the next eight bars, leading to the sultry melodic line carried by the saxophone. There is a seamless mix of funk and jazz textures that work exquisitely together. According to Braden, the unison ensemble section was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”. The band reaches into the pop world as they re-create the Beyoncé tune, “Déjà vu”. Braden adds his own flair by changing the key from the original recording and including jazz harmonies in the melody sections, which contrast with the solo sections (there is a vamp in E-flat minor that modulates to e minor on a smoking bass solo and back to E-flat minor on the return to the vamp). On “Having A Ball,” the only song on this set that features just the saxophone, Braden’s technical prowess assists in telling his soulful story. Braden’s sax solos are always on target throughout this project because he understands the importance of conveying the message of each phrase. “Having a Ball” is actually the intro to a gospel tinged funk interpretation of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Braden remarks “I was looking to combine the two songs and I thought of Lucille Ball which made the perfect connection.”

One of my favorite tracks is “A Foote in the Door” because it is reminiscent of the great jazz-fusion from early groups such as Weather Report.
This piece clearly demonstrates the interrelation between complex harmonic melodies and solid syncopations. The solo section has minor chords moving down in minor thirds (G minor, E minor, C# minor), which makes for an interesting sound yet a definite improvisational challenge. However, with this group of exemplary musicians, each one brings a visceral level of spontaneity that demonstrates their effortless musicality and skill. Although “The Funky View” is one of the most harmonically and melodically simple tunes on the disc, it is still hard-grooving and danceable. Originally conceived as a “smooth jazz” piece, “Heads Up” contains a fairly intricate melodic and harmonic feel, losing itself in a trance-like improvised section. “Confusion,” contains a minor-tinged main melody with a solo section similar to the Jaco Pastorius tune, “The Chicken,” and a challenging time signature of 13/8. “Song for Mother” is a dedication to Braden’s mother and one of the most beautiful songs on the recording. It begins in a slow tempo with the alto flute playing the melody accompanied by ostinato bass. The alto flute creates an ethereal quality supported by Rolfe’s complimentary string sounds and synth solo. The ability to switch from the hard-hitting grooves of the previous tracks to the sublime treatment of this sensitive song is another reason to appreciate the talents of these fine musicians. The rousing finale to this set is a tune called “Grover Miles,” in tribute to the bands all-time favorite musicians, Grover Washington, Jr. and Miles Davis. The bass line is related to the Davis composition “Tutu” and the melody has elements of classic Washington tunes from recordings of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The more I listen to this infectious recording, the more I love it. It’s questionable that anyone could sit still listening to the killer grooves on this project, which is why this is a funk lover’s dream! This tasty recording belongs in any serious funk, jazz-fusion, and soul collection.

Content copyright 2011-2012. Jazz History All rights reserved.