By Jonathan Widran

Finally caught up on his rest after a whirlwind summer on the road as part of the successful Jazz Attack tour with Jonathan Butler, Peter White and Richard Elliot, Rick Braun is back in a joyful frenzy mode. Still jazzed by the success of “People Make the World Go Round,” the Braun co-produced Elliot single that spent 11 weeks at #1 on Radio & Records’ airplay chart, the trumpeter is celebrating the release of his new album, Yours Truly. It’s his second album for ARTizen Music Group, the upstart independent label launched this year by Braun, Elliot, their manager Steve Chapman and industry veteran Al Evers.

Braun is also gearing up to both perform and play host on this month’s highly anticipated All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise (leaving the Port of Galveston Nov. 13), which will be held on a different, larger ship (the Conquest) than originally scheduled. As part of the disaster response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Government secured the Carnival Cruise Line’s Elation, which AAI Events had initially contracted for a full-ship charter. This means that unlike what was originally planned, the event will not be an exclusive smooth jazz charter. On the other hand, fans will be able to share the gospel of smooth jazz with those on the ship who aren’t necessarily there for the music.

Speaking for himself and his fellow musical participants, Braun says, “It’ll be a slightly different situation because of these changes, but we’re all still going to have a great time. This is actually Carnival’s best ship! The ads for the event all say it’s ‘hosted by’ me, but that’s a flexible thing. Most likely, it means I’m going to be the host of many of the shows and other events, doing emceeing and introducing the others. I’ll also be ringleader of the all-star jam session we’re going to do, which I think will be incredible. What I’m even more excited about is hosting some special events onboard for members of my fan club, including a fan club-only brunch.”

Braun loves the idea of sharing a week on a ship with some of his favorite artists and their most enthusiastic fans. “They get to be in close proximity with all of us for this great length of time, and there’s no other experience in smooth jazz that offers them this. They’ll get to dine at tables next to people they usually only see onstage or signing autographs after shows, and when they walk out on deck, who knows who will be sitting next to them? That intimacy is the best part, but then there are the destinations and the opportunity for us musicians to give them shows that they couldn’t get anywhere else. Personally, I’m also excited about bringing my wife Christiane with me. We’ve been married over eight years and never had a formal honeymoon, so we’re treating this as one!”

Less than a week after Braun debarks in Galveston, he and his cruisemates and pals Peter White and Mindi Abair will be in Huntington Beach, California launching their 21-date Christmas tour at the new Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa, a show jointly promoted by BB Jazz and Omega Events. The tour ends with a performance at the Spreckels Theater in San Diego on Dec. 23.

A few weeks into 2004, just after White and Abair had completed the first successful run of their new holiday tour, Braun and White were both on the bill at the Bahamas Jazz Festival. Over dinner one night, Braun literally asked the guitarist if he could “horn in” on the action. White and Braun had been part of Dave Koz’s annual Christmas tour for several years in the past, and Braun had missed playing during December. White thought it was a great idea, and 2005 marks Braun’s second tour with White and Abair.

“They’re both such great entertainers, and a lot of fun to play with onstage,” Braun says. “So, the minute we’re back on land, we’re putting on the Santa hats and keeping this evolving new tradition going!” It’s a good bet that during Braun’s performances both on board and on the Christmas tour, he’ll be playing his funky version of Barry White’s “Love’s Theme,” Christiane’s favorite song from Yours Truly, an album of all covers featuring some of Braun’s favorite songs of all time, ranging from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star” to John Mayer’s “Daughters.”

Although from his many years as an artist, Braun knows nothing in the music industry is a given, he is confident that the positive energy of the overwhelming response (in both sales and airplay) to Elliot’s Metro Blue, ARTizen’s first release, will carry over to his album. Despite the financial risks involved in launching an indie label, Braun felt this was a good time to take a plunge he has dreamed about since releasing his first project, Intimate Secrets, in 1992.

“I honestly thought when I signed with Warner Bros. in 2000, I had a strong and secure situation, but the merger with AOL led to Warner’s phasing out their jazz department,” he says. “The music business has actually been in a state of contraction for years, and so when I looked at my options, I thought I could either sign with a new label for minimal risk and a so-called steady paycheck, or try a new route. Not only has being a label owner been one of my goals, but as producers, it gives Richard and me the chance to discover and develop new artists who deserve an opportunity. Having the first two releases from the owners helps establish our credibility up front. Then, it’s going to be our main priority to put out good music that measures up to the quality standards we apply to our own recordings. The artists we sign may be new faces or musicians who have a track record. If the right situation comes up, we’re open minded.”

While Braun says he never creates a CD based on any sort of market or radio trends––meaning he didn’t know that Eric Marienthal and Kirk Whalum were releasing all-cover albums at the same time––he thinks he understands why these types of projects are so popular these days. “It’s kind of the same thing that has fueled Rod Stewart’s resurgence with his standards albums,” he says. “People are looking for comfort levels in their music, and familiar material done in new ways touches them in ways they need to be touched. But I didn’t just throw tunes together. I wanted to create a very adult record, something minimal production-wise like Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony or some old Freddie Hubbard albums I have. The album evokes special feelings from me that convey important parts of my life. It’s a real glimpse into my development as a player and artist.”

Despite his hectic touring and recording schedule, he pulls off a great balancing act when it comes to being a devoted family man. The hardest time this year was when he was out with Jazz Attack and Christiane took Emma (age 5) and Kyle (turning 4 this month) to Germany to stay with her parents. Those five weeks apart were tough, but Braun keeps it all in perspective when he says, “Our soldiers have been in Iraq for much longer stretches, and I don’t have anyone shooting at me.”

When Daddy came home, he made it up to the kids by taking them to movies and camping. Pismo Beach is a favorite destination, and the Brauns took their new motor home up the coast to hang out with Gregg Karukas’ family for a weekend this summer. It’s harder to take off now with Emma in kindergarten and Kyle starting nursery school, but Braun is very hands-on taking care of them in the morning. He’s also happy to report that Emma wants a violin, plays the piano, is a great dancer and does a mean Mick Jagger impression. Kyle, meanwhile, is following in dad’s footsteps learning to play the pocket trumpet Braun used on the road with Rod Stewart for years, one note at a time.

When the trumpeter speaks these days of living a charmed life, he’s not simply referring to his ongoing success as an artist. “With Christiane, I finally found someone who has got what it takes to understand someone like me, no offense to Jeff Golub!” he laughs. “Considering a lot of the trouble I got into during my younger, rock and roll days, it’s kind of miraculous, like how did I get here from there? It’s easy to get caught up in myself sometimes and forget on occasion how lucky and blessed I am, but I really have so many things to be grateful for. And Thanksgiving is coming up, so I better not forget it!”

Rick Braun is scheduled to host the 7-day All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise aboard Carnival Cruise’s Conquest, which departs Galveston, Texas, on Nov. 13, with ports of call to Montego Bay, Cayman Islands and Cozumel. He will also be performing at the Smooth Jazz 95.7 The Wave’s 3rd Annual Wave Days 3 by the Sea pre-cruise festival presented by the All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise at Moody Gardens Resort Convention Center, 7 Hope Blvd., Galveston Island, Texas, on Nov. 12. To book this cruise, or for more information, call (877) JAZZ-SAX, or log on to www.allstarcruise.com.

A Peter White Christmas featuring Rick Braun & Mindi Abair tour includes a performance on Nov. 26 at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa, located at 21500 Pacific Coast Hwy., in Huntington Beach, California. For tickets or more information, call Omega Events at (949) 360-7800 or BB Jazz at (714) 377-7574. Additional information can be accessed online at www.omegaevents.com or www.bbjazz.com.

A Peter White Christmas tour concludes on Dec. 23 at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, in San Diego, California. For tickets or more information, log on to www.jazzconcerts.com.
 
Visit Rick's website: www.rickbraun.com    


Discography:
1992 Intimate Secrets  Mesa Bluemoon
1994 Nightwalk Mesa Bluemoon
1995

Beat Street

Mesa Bluemoon
1996 Body and Soul Mesa Bluemoon
1998 Full Stride Atlantic
2000 Shake It Up Warner Bros.
2001 Kisses in the Rain Warner Bros.
2002 Groovin’ Warner Bros.
2003 Esperanto Warner Bros.
2004

Sessions: Volume I

ARTizen Music Group
2005 Yours Truly ARTizen Music Group

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