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Educator, Conductor, Composer, Bandleader, Scholar  




Anthony Branker & Ascent “Blessings" CD

First Round Entry in the 52nd Annual
Grammy Awards Balloting for:

"Best Jazz Instrumental Album"

"Best Instrumental Composition"
('Crystal Angel' by Anthony Branker)

"Best Jazz Instrumental Solo"
(Ralph Bowen's soprano saxophone solo on
'The Holy Innocent' by Anthony Branker

“Blessings” CD selected as All About Jazz "Publisher's Pick"

“Blessings” CD spends 9 weeks on the 'JazzWeek' National Radio Airplay Charts!!

"Composer/arranger Anthony Branker and his ensemble Ascent follow up on the critically acclaimed release Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound, 2006) with Blessings, a spirited collection of progressive jazz. The music was composed during a residency Branker participated in at the Estonian Academy of Music where he represented the United States as a Fulbright Scholar. The recording features a first-rate cast of east coast heavy-hitters...Branker's music relies on a strong rhythmic foundation, with Afro-Cuban inspired grooves and solo sections over energetic vamps...With a unique combination of depth and accessibility, Branker is able to put forth a jazz perspective steeped in soulful optimism."  

John Barron, All About Jazz, April 2009

“…beautiful writing, and such great people to realize all of it…Lovely!”

Maria Schneider, Grammy Award winning composer & bandleader

"I have been studying and playing music for more than 50 years and am at the point where not much of what I hear from the offerings of new music excites me in any way. That is not the case with Anthony Branker's new ‘Blessings’ CD. The playing, compositions, and production suggest that this is a recording that is very special. This is a burning CD that I highly recommend!"

Ron Miller, Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies and Composition at the University of Miami

"On Blessings, the group works their way through a pleasing mix of layered jazz...Where the music isn't slowly building (as in Sacred Song), it tends toward the highly complex, anchored more often than not by the intricate vibe posturing of Bryan Carrott..While the individuals may twinkle periodically, it's the compositions that hold attention, and they're quite good compositions...it makes for a fine outing throughout."  

Adam Greenberg, All Music Guide, April 2009 

"Branker is a masterful crafter of tunes...his musicians build the pieces with their smart soloing, but it’s his chordal structure and his easygoing melodies that make this a winner...Branker has a knack for combining intriguing song structures with fine musicians."  

Jazz Society of Oregon, April 2009 


Spirit Songs







Jazz Journalists Association cited Spirit Songs as one of the “Top 10 new jazz releases for 2006” and the composition “Imani (Faith)” was named one of the “Top 10 best new jazz compositions of the year.”

Ken Franckling, Jazz Journalists Association,
December, 2006

The 10 best new jazz releases, listed alphabetically:

* Bill Anschell, "More to the Ear than Meets the Eye" (Origin)
* Patricia Barber, "Mythologies" (Blue Note)
* Anthony Branker & Ascent, "Spirit Songs" (Sons of Sound)
* Yosvany Terry Cabrera, "Metamorphosis" (EWE Records/Kindred Music Group)
* Avishai Cohen, "Continuo" (Razdaz)
* Mitchell Forman, "Perspectives" (Marsis Jazz)
* Jimmy Heath Big Band, "Turn Up the Heath" (Planet Arts)
* Ingrid Jensen, "At Sea" (artistShare)
* Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood, "Out Louder" (Indirecto)
* Ted Nash "In The Loop" (Palmetto)

The 10 best new songs of the year, listed alphabetically:

* "Persephone" by Patricia Barber from her "Mythologies" (Blue Note)
* "Imani (Faith)" by Anthony Branker from his "Spirit Songs" (Sons of Sound)
* "Devil Eyes" by Dwayne Burno from the Roy Hargrove Quintet's "Nothing Serious" (Verve)
* "Spy Versus Spy" by Grant Geissman from his "Say That!" (Futurism)
* "Dorothy Parker" by Marilyn Harris from "Future Street" (Wrightwood)
* "Love and Laughter" by Hiromi from her "Spiral" (Telarc
* "Victor"s Lesson" by Sarah Hommel from her "A Sarah Hommel Drum All" (self-produced)
* "Faster than the Speed of Mildew" by Bill Anschell from his "More to the Ear than Meets the Eye" (Origin)
* "Captain Jon" by Geoff Keezer from Ingrid Jensen's "At Sea" (artistShare)
* "Pogo Sticks" by Bill O"Connell from "Latin Jazz Fantasy" (Random Chance)

The best jazz boxed set:

* "Sonny Stitt, "Stitt's Bits -The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952? (Prestige)

The best jazz related DVDs of 2006:

* The Heath Brothers, "Brotherly Jazz" (DanSun)
* Various artists, "Legends of Jazz, Season One" (LRSmedia)


“Composer/arranger/trumpeter/mentor Anthony Branker is one of those gurus who, although he has appeared in the spotlight as a leader or co-collaborator with various big names, has made his most lasting mark as an educator and composer…(he) has proven to be an inspiration to many known and unknown musicians.”  

“Spirit Songs is Branker’s all-cards-on-the-table look at his compositional being, a deeply spiritual individual who uses his faith to imbue his art for eight compelling compositions.  This emotive, yet accessible and celebratory set favors cunning ensemble interplay…”

“With a diverse set of compelling compositions and an inspired ensemble, Spirit Songs could easily be considered a breakout record for Branker…there is a depth and beauty that bears fruit with each investigation, belying such notions of deceptive simplicity.  Bravo, Mr. Branker, may you continue to create and inspire.”

Jay Collins, One Final Note: Jazz & Improvised Music, May 2006

“Spirit Songs
is a top-shelf recording from an under-recognized composer and musician, although Branker obviously is well known and respected within the New York Jazz musician community.”

“Anthony Branker…is a presence throughout Spirit Songs through his composition of the music, and more importantly, through the feeling that the music conveys… He has recruited some accomplished musicians to help him with the project. The result is as exhilarating and technically astute as would be expected from musicians of this caliber.”

“… the music of Spirit Songs is the shaping characteristic of the entire CD. The first track, “Chant for Peace Eternal,” gives a hint of the program to follow. With serpentine melodic lines played over percussive agitation, the tune evolves chorus by chorus into a larger work of revealed meaning, like the chapters of a book forming finally its overall narrative structure.”

“..the musicians’ interpretations of Branker’s music, made possible by his generous use of space and allowance for successive improvisational choruses, color the performances with notable moments…”

Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine, January 2007

“Here, we find six veteran performers who interpret Branker’s modern mainstream material with flair. Each piece provides a lovely balance of melody and harmony over a substantially fluid rhythm. All the essential elements are there.”

“Cohesion seems to be the byword of the session, as everyone works together as if they’ve known each other since early childhood. That kind of performance can only come through proper preparation, which is the teacher’s forte. The end result, of course, is his ultimate reward.”

“We can enjoy this one with just as much pleasure as that which the six members of Ascent must have shared on this May 2004 recording date.”

Spirit Songs proves that music coming from the heart will always provide a welcome setting when brought together in a cohesive community.”

Jim Santella, Jazz Improv Magazine’s NY Jazz Guide, May 2006

“Anthony Branker is crafting some of today’s finest compositions…”

“The bouncing, reggae-tinged track ‘Imani (Faith)’…has already shuffled onto this reviewer’s list of the top new jazz compositions of the year.”

“The lyrical groove of the Spirit Songs project, performed by one mighty fine bop sextet, makes one anxious to hear Branker’s other side – his trumpet playing.”

Ken Franckling, All About Jazz-New York, May 2006

“Trumpeter Anthony Branker leads a tight-knit, well-rehearsed ensemble that is quite capable of the robust…there’s some thoughtful writing here as well, witness Branker’s Miles tribute Sketches of Selim.”

Willard Jenkins, Open Sky Jazz/The Independent Ear, May 2006

Ascent clearly reveres Branker and his heartfelt compositions; these are jazz songs you’re meant to feel, with the kind of transcendent, emotional solos that even non-jazz fans can sense contain something special.”

Dan Krow, Audiophile Audition, April 2006, **** (4 out of 4 Stars)

Anthony Branker & Ascent “Spirit Songs” selected as
All About Jazz Publisher's Pick of the Week, April 2, 2006


“Branker has imagination, good judgment, a taste for the modal… excellent craftsmanship and the right balance of freedom and form.”

Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times, March 2006, ***** (5 Stars)

“The best works for small groups are often the ones whose written passages set up...the most inspiring moments. Trumpeter Anthony Branker understands this, and so his Spirit Songs is a blowing showcase…”

“(Antonio Hart) displays unfailing nuance and imagination, mostly on alto. Tenor/soprano saxophonist Ralph Bowen meets the same standard, Clifford Adams plays lusty hard-bop trombone and John Benitez's bass lays a solid but flexible foundation.”

Down Beat, March 2006  *** (3 out of 5 Stars)



“The presiding genius of melody here, Anthony Branker…does not play on this vivid, inspiring and inspired set of devotional swinging hard bop, though it's… all composed by him. Probably he feels no need to blow his own metaphorical horn, either. Admirable.

Robert R. Calder, All About Jazz, March 2006


“Anthony Branker contributed eight originals for the all-star sextet, music that recalls Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers at the time that Wayne Shorter was in the group, and the early John Coltrane Quartet…there are plenty of fine solos, particularly from altoist Antonio Hart and tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen. All in all, this is a solid outing.”

Scott Yanow, All Music Guide, March 2006,
3 ½ stars

“As an arranger, he has the gift of letting ensemble lines and solo spots tell their separate, but nevertheless connected stories. ..Some insinuating rhythms that change the tack and meter, the album makes for some perky listening. Bringing it all up front is Ascent, a band of adventurous players whose ideas ferment in both solo passages and group interaction.”

Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz, February 2006

Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound) has eight outstanding pieces … this is just as much a showcase for Branker’s writing, which sports a pronounced Messengers’ influence both in instrumentation and pace, as for the solo skills of the musicians.”

Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper, February 2006