Joris Teepe & Don Braden

Chemistry
(Creative Perspective)

With either Louis Hayes or Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, you’d expect nothing less than a confident, swinging album from veteran tenor saxophonist Don Braden and his fellow chemist, bassist Joris Teepe.

Five tunes are cover versions radically different from the originals. Braden wrote the questing, powerful “Steps” and “Morning,” a pensive, thorough duo with Teepe. Credit Teepe for “The Optimist,” a tune that starts cloudily and ends happily, largely thanks to the immersive pulsations of Watts.

The second Braden-Teepe album without a chordal instrument, Chemistry represents what Braden calls a “more open style of jazz improvisation.” Flexibility and suppleness are the aims here; how successful the group is in meeting those goals comes clear particularly in Herbie Hancock’s demanding “One Finger Snap,” an exciting exchange between a demonic Hayes and a determined Braden.

The album starts strongly with Kenny Kirkland’s “Steepian Faith,” Hayes churning and shimmering behind Braden as he digs in, ever more gnarly and absorbing. Everyone solos economically, maintaining the tension. “Morning” is a sweet midpoint for this surging recording. It features Braden at his most personal, and his twine with Teepe draws the listener in as its beauty soars.

Hayes’ rolling drums, Teepe’s taut bass and Braden’s edgy tenor toughen up Horace Silver’s smoothly melodic “Song For My Father,” and Braden soars on flute on “Unit 7,” a blues by bassist Sam Jones that was a staple of Cannonball Adderley’s band. “Unit 7” is a fittingly earthy conclusion.