Emmy Award-winning, Juilliard-trained Musician Braxton Cook Releases His Highly Anticipated, Full-Length Album
February 24, 2023 BY Jason Currell
Today, Emmy Award-Winning, Julliard-trained jazz-R&B artist Braxton Cook releases his highly anticipated fifth full-length album Who Are You When No One Is Watching? via Nettwerk. The 17-song odyssey is an exploration into what’s possible within the future of jazz, R&B, soul, and hip-hop. The title incites themes of perception and Braxton addresses viewpoints on race injustice, love in the media, marriage, fatherhood, and what it means to succeed in our world.
“I feel a lot,” says Braxton. “I’m a deeply emotional person. I just love. You know what I mean? Like, I love my family. I love my people. I love my friends. I love music. I have a belief that things can and will be better.” His new epic holds up a mirror to ourselves and the society around us. It’s at once confrontational, thoughtful, sentimental. “People need to see themselves, to some degree. Even if I’m speaking about tragedy, there’s still that glimmer of hope I infuse in my music.” Which is to say, Who Are You When No One Is Watching? is also very much a thing of beauty.
Listen to Who Are You When No One Is Watching? on all digital retailers (here).
Braxton’s acumen as a saxophonist is legend and frequently elicits descriptors such as “virtuoso” and “prodigy” (see: The New Yorker, Jazz Times, FADER). He’s played with Rihanna, toured with Solange Knowles, performed for Quincy Jones. He is a Juilliard graduate (from an already overachieving family: Mom was a classical pianist, dad a Georgetown professor) and even an Emmy winner (for a John Coltrane mini-doc, produced by Vox). In the time since his acclaimed 2020 release, Fire Sign, Braxton has been busy releasing new material, touring around the U.S., and expanding his sonic palette working on collaborations with producer Jahaan Sweet (production credit on Taylor Swift’s “Lavender Haze” and Giveon’s “Tryina Be”) and contemporaries like Kiefer and Masego.
Who Are You When No One Is Watching? marks his second release with Nettwerk after sharing the striking new EP Black Mona Lisa in September. The boundary-pushing release includes standouts singles like “MB (for Ma’Khia Bryant)” and “90s” featuring Masego, which have received positive acclaim from Billboard, NPR Music, PAPER, OkayPlayer, Jazziz Magazine, and more. “The Answer” is an ethereal-soul take and also a gut-punch. The track, which he wrote on the guitar, looks around us and feels an overwhelming sense of loss and grief.
For the sweeping loveliness that is “Black Mona Lisa” (a strings-and-flute laden track, inspired by the Nat King Cole song), he wrote a bass line on the sax that grows into a bridge courtesy of his former Juilliard classmate, guitarist Andrew Renfroe. “At the end of the day, it’s a work of art, but I want to remind people it’s a Black work of art,” he says, having here liberated Black beauty of fetishization or appropriation.
He devotes a pair of tracks simply to count his blessings. In the sweetly mellifluous “Statistics,” the new-ish father time-travels to the future, lovingly looking back on his domestic life. It’s a sentiment echoed in “The Same,” a feathery-light romance that seems to carry a torch for the New Jack slow jams. They’re both deeply personal tracks, and in many senses, an antidote to the cascading of regrets that is the ballad “Gold,” about his parents’ crumbling marriage.
Humanity is another underlying theme and Cook finds this endlessly humbling. “’Let go and let God’ is a phrase we grew up saying in the church,” he says. He even wrote a song, the weightless spiritual “Let Go,” with a warm, wafting chorus repeating that exact phrase.
At face value, Braxton Cook is an undisputed jazz wunderkind. But with Who Are You When No One Is Watching? it’s clear that Cook — who mingles the genres that comprise the canon of Black American music — is also very much a chronicler and shaper of modern culture.
Braxton will embark on his ‘Black Nostalgia’ headlining U.S. tour which kicks off in Los Angeles at the Lodge Room presented by Jazz is Dead. Find the full list of dates below and stay tuned for a second round of dates to come! Tickets are on sale now! For more information visit: https://www.braxtoncook.com/.
BRAXTON COOK 2023 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES:
Mar 02 Los Angeles, CA @ The Lodge Room
Mar 04 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Mar 05 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
Mar 09 Santa Cruz, CA @ Kuumbwa Jazz
Mar 10 Portland, OR @ Jack London Revue
Mar 11 Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
Mar 12 Seattle, WA @ Madame Lou’s
Apr 08 Orlando, FL @ Timucua Arts Foundation
Apr 12 Washington, D.C. @ Songbyrd
Apr 14 Philadelphia, PA @ Milk Boy Philly
Apr 22 Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere
Jun 22 Chicago, IL @ Schubas
1. MB (for Ma’Khia Bryant)
3. The Work (Journal Entry 1)
4. 90s (featuring Masego)
6. Faith (Journal Entry 2)
8. The Same (featuring Marquis Hill)
10. Trust (Journal Entry 3)
11. Let Go
12. August’s Interlude
13. Black Mona Lisa
14. The Answer (featuring Orlando Watson)
15. Parenthood (Journal Entry 4)