Trumpeter Rick Braun's tone is instantly recognizable for its rounded, intimate warmth, lyrical phrasing, and economical soloing. The chart-topping instrumentalist, producer, and composer is a direct musical descendant of players such as Chet Baker and the Gil Evans-era Miles Davis, albeit one who reflects contemporary and smooth jazz. In addition to more than 20 smooth jazz number one hits under his own name, he has collaborated with who's-who of contemporary jazz greats including Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Dave Koz, Boney James, and Brian Culbertson among them. Braun's trademark melodicism has also crossed over into pop, too: He has worked with everyone from Rod Stewart and Natalie Cole to Tom Petty and Sade, to name a few. His album catalog boasts five Top 200 albums, as well as five jazz number ones, beginning with 1998's Full Stride and running through 2000's Shake It Up in collaboration with James and 2001's Kisses in the Rain. In more recent years, he accomplished the same feat with 2014's Can You Feel It and 2018's Dave Koz & Friends: Summer Horns II: From A to Z. In between, his recordings have charted on lists as diverse as Hip Hop, Adult R&B, Dance Club, and Smooth Jazz Songs, as well as Independent and Holiday albums.
Braun was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1955. His first instrument was drums, but he switched to trumpet in high school. He joined the jazz-fusion outfit Auracle, formed while he was a student at the prestigious Eastman School of Music. After two albums for Chrysalis -- Glider in 1978 and City Slickers in 1979 -- helmed by famed producer Teo Macero, the group disbanded, and Braun turned to songwriting, scoring a hit with REO Speedwagon's "Here with Me" in 1984. In time, he directed his focus to contemporary jazz, issuing his solo debut, Intimate Secrets, in 1993. After touring with Sade, he returned in 1994 with Night Walk and the seasonal release Christmas Present. With 1995's Beat Street, Braun's popularity continued to snowball. The 1996 smash Body and Soul launched an NAC chart-topper titled "Notorious." A two-time winner of the Gavin Report's Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year award, he returned in 1998 with Full Stride. He also collaborated with Boney James on the 2000 release Shake It Up. Kisses in the Rain followed a year later, and Braun continued issuing albums throughout the decade of the 2000s, including Esperanto in 2003, Sessions, Vol. 1 in 2004, Yours Truly in 2005, RnR (a duo set co-led by saxophonist Richard Elliot) in 2007, and All It Takes in 2009. Braun offered a change of pace in 2011 with the self-explanatory Sings with Strings, an album of standards featuring string charts by Philippe Saisse. In 2014, Braun returned to the groove-oriented, instrumental, smooth jazz of his early work with Can You Feel It. Around the Horn appeared in 2017 on Shanachie, and earned positive reviews as well as a high placement on the contemporary jazz album charts. He followed it with a return appearance on 2018's charting Dave Koz & Friends: Summer Horns II: From A to Z. The following year, Braun returned to Shanachie for Crossroads in August. The collection included covers of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" as well as guest appearances on originals "Me and You" (featuring guitarist Peter White), and "Versace on the Floor" (with saxophonist Richard Elliot). ~ Jason Ankeny