What ties these dissimilar identical brothers together is their shared concern for the state of love. To that end, they have come together again, after nine years, for their fifth and most important offering to date, True Love.
Together, Jazz twins, Wayne and Nelson Braxton have made music with artists from all genres, including frequently backing R&B songstress, Ledisi. In between both of their busy family, work and music lives, they have always found time to make their own music. Their albums, Steppin’ Out (1996) Now and Forever (1999) Both Sides (2002) and Rollin’ (2004) have already garnered them a committed throng of their own.
At first glance, it’s hard to tell the Braxton Brothers apart. Their Identical Twin DNA only skims the surface. Nelson says, “The way to tell us apart is “Wayne is the friendlier one.” And, for the record, Nelson is the one who is classically trained in tuba and is also an in-demand bassist who has performed with legends Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs and Richard Marx . He has also toured the world with some of pop music’s biggest names including Michael Bolton and Rachelle Ferrell.
Wayne, the friendlier one, does not consider himself a “working musician,” although you will see that he is. Wayne works in Corporate America as an analyst. He says, “I bring a different perspective to my music. I go through life everyday working with real people who have never been on a stage. For me, music is not work, it’s pure joy.” Wayne’s entry into the professional music realm began in the early 90’s when he was in college and got his first gig with singer/percussionist, Sheila E.
It was the legendary George Benson who once advised the younger Braxtons, “The only thing you can do well is you.” Wayne and Nelson Braxton already knew that, but Benson’s wisdom just elucidated the Braxton’s’ ineffable talent for putting their whole selves into their sound.
The Braxton Brothers are both masterful musicians, playing multiple instruments including tuba, saxophone, bass, trombone, keyboards, guitar, clarinet and flute and they have the audacity to make a rightful place for hip hop inside of their jazzy mix. Says Nelson, “There’s always been something about the “head knock” in hip-hop that we love.” In fact, the Braxtons are so technically skilled that they know for a fact that hip-hop belongs with jazz. Citing Tribe Called Quest and The Roots, “Those groups all had acoustic bass and jazz samples. The tempos are very compatible with what I like to play on horn,” says Wayne.
True Love seamlessly encompasses all they have learned and all they have accomplished. It is the sound of balance. On True Love you will detect homage to the “smooth jazz” greats like Najee, Grover Washington and Gerald Albright, on whose shoulders they proudly stand. However, this is not “smooth jazz.” “Basically, smooth jazz is dead,” says Nelson, candidly. Wayne continues, “Our music is adult-oriented with elements of R&B, jazz and hip hop.”
“We like to call it jazzy acoustic soul music,” Nelson concludes.
The Braxton Brothers have made the topic of Love the centerpiece of True Love, a soothing journey through the corridors of human connection. The 10-song set sparkles with jazzy lullabies that refuse to let you sleep.
True Love is really an album that explores the very core of love. In order to dive into such deep waters, The Braxton Brothers chose three exceptional vocalists to give voice to True Love. The Braxton Brothers first went to Bay Area collaborator, Martin Luther who wrote and sang the sensual Heavenly Body, which lures with its sexy hook and sobers with its tough messages.
Vocalist Chandlar comes to the Braxtons via the Internet, where Wayne discovered him. Chandlar’s soulful croon shines brightest on the danceable Know You Better, which tells the story of an innocent meeting on the dance floor. Another Day, serves as a prayer for inner peace. The hip-hop anthem, She Knows Me, celebrates the deep friendship that can exist in romantic love. There, San Diego based rapper, Clister, injects a poetic punch into the upbeat track, giving the song a street and radio-worthy edge.
R&B staples like On and On (featuring Chandlar) speak to the trials and tribulations of relationships. Can This Be Love looks at infatuation and the discernment needed to make the right choices. Says Wayne of the lyrical content, “We wanted to make sure that the lyrics spoke to the mind as well as the spirit.”
For jazz purists who prefer their jazz instrumental, True Love features two stellar moments; Together, a cozy, comfortable old school jam and Never Take Your Love Away is a sexy Grover Washington-esque track strictly for romance.
Wayne says of True Love, “The songs are written from a male perspective, which is the one that needs an adjustment in today’s music. I am hoping that these songs will make men up their game and women up their requirements.”
You see, The Braxton Brothers understand the power of music. “Out of the ashes of smooth jazz, we have come up with something that is relevant. We blend the soulfulness of contemporary R&B with abstraction and intellect. And, of course, a little hip-hop head knock.”