Keeping an ear to the streets is a major key for any platform, with our crew at Gritty Vibes being no different. With each passing day, we’re in constant search of the next big thing, which often requires hours of scouring through Soundclouds and social media. There are times though, when a cerebral talent lands right in front of us. Take Braxton Cook for example. After shining with a few other talented musicians on a major repost from The Shade Room, Cook’s talent was clear for the world to see. Before we knew it, our inbox was flooded with the video, and specific instructions attached: FIND HIM. Of course, we abided. We were interested to discover that the saxophonist from Maryland didn’t always find it easy to surround himself with likeminded creatives, and the story of his eventual schooling and come up was definitely a joy to hear. So by popular demand, meet Braxton Cook.
1. Where are you from and how did you get into the sax?
I’m from Prince George’s County, Maryland. I think I was always attracted to the sound of the saxophone since I was young. I remember singing along to solos on R&B and Funk songs as far back as I remember. Then one year in 90s my mom rented a saxophone for my father as a birthday gift. He was practicing in the basement and allowed me and my brothers to come try to play a note. I remember getting a good tone my first try and from then on I was hooked. I got my first saxophone in 5th grade for band class and I just stuck with it. By 9th grade I joined the Jazz band and got a private teacher and it was during my high school years that I put in most of my hours of practice.
2. What was the experience like at Juilliard? How did you carve out your own specific style?
My experience at Juilliard was somewhat complicated but overall a good learning experience. I think I have a sort of love/hate relationship with school lol because I went to Georgetown University with a major in English before I attended Juilliard and I had some issues their as well. I guess I always had trouble fitting in ever since high school. At Georgetown I struggled with finding likeminded musicians that were serious about music and then at Juilliard I found that my peers were serious about music for music’s sake but lacked the ambition and entrepreneurial spirit to create a career. My saving grace during my time in NYC was linking up with Grammy-Nominated Trumpeter Christian Scott. I learned more on the road with his band than any other time in my life. I got real time stage experience playing for large crowds and was able to pick his brain and learn the ins and outs of the music business. I think Christian had a big influence on me. He encouraged that we all find our own unique voices and I took that to heart. So as soon as I joined his band in 2012, I began composing and recording original music which helped to solidify my sound as a saxophonist, composer and writer. Also being in an environment that accepted other cultures and sounds musically (ie. Hip Hop, R&B, Indie Rock, Bebop, Swing, New Orleanian traditional music, Cuban music e.t.c.) had a large impact on my sound and opened my mind to different possibilities. Possibilities that I would have never explored being just a full time student Juilliard.
3. How would you compare the music scene now to the golden era of the John Coltrane’s?
It’s hard to say what the music scene was like during the era of John Coltrane in the 50s and 60s. However, I imagine there were some similarities in the Jazz world because of the political climate of the 60s and the climate now during Trump’s regime. It’s a very scary time in this country and I believe the music is reflecting the turmoil that’s happening in this world. With instances of overt racism like in Charlottesville this year I believe elements of the 60s are showing its head again. I think Jazz should be at the forefront of this movement happening and composers/artists should take the time to take a stance through their art.
4. Where can we watch you or hear your music? Anything you’ve been working on or venues that you’re playing at that you wish to mention?
You can watch live videos of my band on YouTube and can listen to my debut albumSomewhere in Between on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Bandcamp, iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play, Amazon. I’m going on my first international tour this month. I will be performing at Yokohama’s popular music venue called Motion Blue onOctober 25th. Then the following I will be performing at Camden Assembly in the U.K. with my groupNovember 14th.
5. What are your dreams in the industry long term? Where should we expect to see Braxton Cook in five to ten years?
I hope to see more diversity in Jazz music again. I hope to see more Black artists and more women and people of all types. I hope to see Jazz more integrated into mainstream culture (which Kendrick Lamar and Terrace Martin are doing). I would like to be apart of that movement in my own way. I would like to collaborate with more artists particularly the artists’ that inspired me like Pharrell, Andre 3000, Frank Ocean, Emily King, Roy Hargrove e.t.c.
In 5 to 10 years, I would like to be touring worldwide with my band, songwriting for major artists as well, as well as teaching and giving back to my community.