Emily Braden sings ‘Cannon & Sparrow’

Boise-born (Idaho), Harlem-honed vocalist, songwriter and lyricist Emily Braden’s sound is an effortless blend of jazz and soul. Winner of New York City’s ‘Best of the Best’ Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, she has been a celebrated name on NYC’s music scene for more than a decade.

Braden’s latest album release, Cannon & Sparrow, is a vibrant collection of powerful originals and reimagined standards. Both daring and delicate, the album marks the second studio collaboration between Braden and her musical partner of more than fifteen years, Misha Piatigorsky. As producer, pianist, composer and arranger, Piatigorsky expertly spotlights Braden’s vocal freedom and fresh and forward interpretation.

Portrait of Emily taken by Blioux
Album design by Kim Thorpe

Emily first fell in love with the song ‘Beautiful Friendship’ on Joe Williams’ LIVE album featuring Cannonball Adderley’s Septet and she does a good job of putting the song across. There is an energetic excitement in the delivery conveying the thrill and change in dynamic felt when friendship changes to love. ‘Swell’ explores the healing and erotic power of water and is sung with a soul styling. The vocals are clear with well-played piano/keys in support and some nicely placed trumpet lines from Tatum Greenblatt. We stay with the soul style for ‘Sweet Little Dream’, which takes the tempo down a notch, has some very nice piano lines from Misha Piatigorsky. Emily uses her vocal range to very good effect and is always in control, which makes for a more than just pleasant listening experience.

‘Superhero’ is a song with strong lyrics delivered a musical edge, a great bass section, shifting rhythmic patterns and wonderful piano playing from Piatigorsky. ‘On A Clear Day’ is a well enough known tune but somehow Emily makes it sound new. She talks about singing the song with “a half-time melody to create the space musically” and it works! Emily channels her inner Whitney Houston for ‘How Will I Know’ and takes the listener back to the 1980s and that distinctive rhythm provided by Rudy Royston. ‘Everytime’ is a beautifully styled ballad, spacious with minimalist piano accompaniment, that throws all the light on the lyrical content so delightfully phrased by Emily.

In stark contrast we get ‘Sister Sadie’, a cover so full of energy, great scatting, and a real toe-tapper of a number. Misha Piatigorsky has a fantastic time at the piano, and Rudy Royston is no slouch on the drums eithger on this terrific upbeat number. ‘Strength Of Love’ has a Stevie Wonder vibe about it with a bright trumpet sound from Tatum Greenblatt. This song is a celebration of resistance as love and is intended as a celebration of today’s freedom fighters. It is a direct expression of support for Black liberation, LGBTQ+ rights and anti-gun violence and has a palpable spiritual lift about it; a song of hope! Cannon & Sparrow closes ‘Aphelion’, written as a part of the process of dealing with grief after losing someone close, in this case Emily’s father. It is, appropriately, sung in the soul style that Emily does so well.

Emily Braden is a new voice to me and one I very much enjoyed hearing. It is easy to understand why she won New York City’s ‘Best of the Best’ Jazzmobile Vocal Competition and she is also blessed with working with a fine group of musicians. This is not an out and out jazz album but is a well-balanced mix of jazz and soul, with a touch of Motown, that holds its own across the album’s ten tracks. The covers are well arranged and come across as belonging to Emily, while the originals show a strong, trusting musical partnership with Misha Piatigorsky.

Cannon & Sparrow is available now from Bandcamp as a digital download or CD having been released 17th March.

Musicians: Emily Braden – voice; Tatum Greenblatt – trumpet; Freddie Bryant – guitar; Misha Piatigorsky – piano, keyboards; Danton Boller – double bass, electric bass; Rudy Royston – drums.

Tracklist + (writers): 1. Beautiful Friendship (D. Kahn/S. Styne). 2. Swell (Braden/Piatigorsky). 3. Sweet Little Dream (Braden/Piatigorsky). 4. Superhero (Braden/Piatigorsky). 5. On a Clear Day (B. Lane/A. Jay Lerner). 6. How Will I Know (G. Merrill/S. Rubicam/N. Walden). 7. Everytime (Piatigorsky). 8. Sister Sadie (H. Silver/E. Jefferson). 9. Strength of Love (Piatigorsky/Braden). 10. Aphelion (Braden/Piatigorsky).

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