If Allentown, Pennsylvania native Rick Braun had his way, he would be a drummer today. Rick traces his critical decision to the third grade at Allentown's now-demolished Stevens Elementary School. "With a big family and a small house, drums weren't exactly smiled upon." The trumpet, his eventual instrument of choice, was a "little less painful" for other family members than his other choice - the violin. Today, no one is complaining.
It seems that music was always going to be Braun's career choice, even when he was a student at Trexler Middle School and Dieruff High. "I really couldn't do anything else. Mine was a career by default. I always had this love of music, and it always came fairly easily to me. It hasn't been a real struggle for me. From an early age, I was playing along with all the Herb Alpert records."
The form and direction of Rick's musical career has changed over time, however. While attending the prestigious Eastman School of Music, Rick took up with other like-minded musicians and formed a group, Auracle, a jazz-fusion group.
Auracle recorded two albums - both out of print - before disbanding. "Auracle was a lot more adventurous and complicated than the other fusion groups that were working at the time, so that meant we were doomed to failure," Rick said.
The first of Rick's big "breaks" in the business came in the area of songwriting and being a background musician/vocalist. One of the tunes he wrote for REO Speedwagon, "Here With Me," hit the Billboard Top 20.
Rick's move to contemporary jazz came about by accident. He traveled to Toronto to shop several demo tapes. One music publisher who listened to Rick's instrumentals suggested that he contact Mesa/Bluemoon, whose main offices, ironically, were about two miles from Rick's Studio City home.
In '93, Rick released his first solo album on Mesa, Intimate Secrets. In '94, the composer and producer released Night Walk. Rick was the touring trumpeter for Sade on the "Love Deluxe" tour and that influence resulted in a huge leap for him in style and content from his first to second album. Listening to Night Walk is almost like listening to Sade instrumentally. Night Walk grabbed Adult Alternative's top Most Added honors. In that same year, '94, Rick also released Christmas Present.
Rick's 1995 album Beat Street, led the pack again. His influence for this he says is thinking back on his days in War's touring band in the mid '80's. After the fact, those memories had a major musical impact on his writing and on our ears. "This is definitely a more spontaneous recording than anything I've done before. Instead of sitting in a room by myself, composing the music before going into the studio, I just took my inspiration from a bunch of guys getting together and playing, with no idea of what we were going to come up with".
Beat Street topped the contemporary jazz charts for a record-breaking 13 weeks, eventually becoming the No. 1 smooth jazz record of the year, garnering Braun Gavin's Artist of the Year and Album of the Year in 1996.
Body and Soul topped that with 28 consecutive weeks in the Top 15 on Billboard's contemporary jazz charts. It went on to become No. 3 on the NAC/Smooth Jazz album charts, yielding the No. 1 hit single "Notorious" and garnering another Artist of the Year Award from Gavin.
His next release, Full Stride, topped the charts for 20 weeks, and his numerous collaborations with artists Richard Elliot, Brian Bromberg, Chris Standring, Jeff Golub, Peter White and 3rd Force have led to multiple No. 1 records. As a producer, he has delivered No. 1 hits for keyboardist David Benoit, guitarist Marc Antoine, Avenue Blue and saxophonist Bryan Savage, and was honored in February of 2000, as "Best Producer" and "Best Brass Player" at the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards.
Rick has worked as a sideman, touring with such rock and pop stars as Rickie Lee Jones, Sade, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Tom Petty, Crowded House, Phoebe Snow and of course, War. In addition to recording and touring as a solo artist, Rick has virtually become an in-house producer for record label Mesa/Bluemoon. In the past few years, he's held the creative reins on several critically acclaimed projects, including two albums for acoustic guitarist Peppino D'Agostino, two for guitar and violin duo Willie and Lobo, and a radio chart-topping contemporary jazz album by Avenue Blue.
Some fun stuff....about Rick
Birthday: July 6th
Born: Allentown, PA
Now Lives: Los Angeles, CA
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Brown
Marital Status:: Married
Favorite Music to listen to: John Coltrane's - Ballads
Favorite Musician: Clifford Brown
Artist Most Admired: Clifford Brown
Favorite Movie: Witches of Eastwyck
Favorite Book: The Road to Gandolfo by Rubert Ludlum
Favorite TV Show: Absolutely Fabulous
Favorite Food: Sushi, Mexican
(anything edible with some kind of sauce on it but not too chewy)
Favorite Drink: Very strong coffee
Favorite Vegie: The bean group!
Least Favorite Vegie: Soggy broccoli
Hobbies: Tennis and skiing
--- from the official Rick Braun website