don braden/Karl latham big funK

JazzTimes Review of Don Braden/Karl Latham “Big Funk”  

Don Braden and Karl Latham 
Big Fun(k) Live 
Creative Perspective 
By Owen Cordle 

Big Fun(k) is a synchronized rhythm machine. Not that it sounds mechanical; rather, each player primarily emphasizes rhythm, and all the parts interconnect—drum backbeats, bass grooves, keyboard riffs and colors and (mostly) pentatonic tenor saxophone figures. Joining leaders Don Braden (tenor sax and alto flute) and Karl Latham (drums) on this live session are Nick Rolfe (keyboards) and Gary Foote (bass). Except for the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Beyonce’s “Déjà Vu,” the compositions are originals. 

The tunes invite macho tenor playing. Braden’s “The Funky View,” on which he solos with blitz-like swirling runs, is a technically dazzling example, as is his “Grover Miles,” which—you guessed it—mixes elements from Grover Washington Jr. and Miles Davis. There’s more Braden brilliance on “Having a Ball,” a solo tenor prelude to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and the quartet gives the Lennon/McCartney classic a soulful treatment, with shimmering keyboard support. Rolfe’s “A Foote in the Door” features bassist Foote soloing with Jaco-like flamboyance. Throughout the album, Rolfe sparks the ensemble with a variety of keyboard effects and in-the-pocket jabs. Latham is an unshakable catalyst. 

In the end, the album title is spot-on: This band is nothing if not fun—and genuinely cooperative. You get the picture that each player is listening to the others and responding for the benefit of the whole.

Latham is an unshakable catalyst. ” - Owen Cordle

— Jazz Times

Downbeat Magazine Big Funk Review

Don Braden/ 
Karl Latham 
Big Fun(k) Live 

Recorded over a series of gigs at 
Cecil’s Jazz Club in West 
Orange, N.J., Big Fun(k) Live 
brings together a powerhouse 
quartet of old friends who seem 
hell-bent on having a ball. It’s a 
funky, electried jam on seven contemporary-leaning original tunes and 
two covers (Beyonce’s “Deja Vu” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Lucy In 
The Sky With Diamonds”) spanning a range of styles from bebop to 
rock. The title, an obvious reference to one of Miles Davis’ electric-era 
albums, pretty much says it all. 
Saxophonist Don Braden was playing instrumental rock and funk 
long before he ever became known as a Young Lion of straightahead 
jazz in the ’80s—and it shows in his well-developed, hard-hitting solos, 
which unfold with brains and brawn over the bedrock laid down by 
drummer/co-leader Karl Latham, electric bassist Gary Foote (of Blood, 
Sweat And Tears fame) and New York synth man Nick Rolfe. Big Fun(k) 
Live is thick with compelling improvisations by outstanding instrumentalists 
who are clearly enjoying every minute spent together onstage. 
The tunes are decent, but the real meat of this recording can be found 
in the expertly executed arrangements and the high-ying solos, which 
must have been a gas to see and hear live in the club. —Ed Enright

O’s Place Jazz Newsletter Review 

O’s Notes: Big Funk is exactly that featuring drummer Karl Latham leading a pumping rhythm section. They provide a solid landscape for Don Braden (sax, fl) to build upon. The program is mostly originals with a couple of complementary covers thrown in. Keyboardist Nick Rolfe shares the lead lines with Braden and bassist Gary Foote is right there with them as on “Deja Vu” and the explosive “A Foote In The Door”. Don shows his stuff on “Having A Ball” a solo prelude to “Lucy In the Sky”. Energy packed to get your head nodding and definitely funky!