Anthony Branker & Imagine – Songs My Mom Liked (ENG review)

Origin Records – Street date June 21th 2024
Anthony Branker

Time passes, and an impressive number of connections are made year after year with people we admire. This is the case with composer Anthony Branker, one of the most remarkable American composers, with whom I will share an interview soon. In Anthony Branker’s work, humanity is as significant as his music. We remember his impressive album released in 2023, “What Place Can Be For Us?”, which defended civil rights. It is no surprise, then, to see him involved in this project that is particularly dear to him. Here’s what Anthony says about this album:

“A few years ago, I started taking my mother on car rides, and along the way, I played music from my older albums that I thought she would remember,” Branker recalls. “And there were moments when I saw her light up and sit up straighter. Her body would start to move and dance a little in her seat, and sometimes she would even sing or hum certain melodies. Music can be a very powerful window to the past.”

Composer Anthony Branker celebrates his mother’s indomitable spirit as she battles dementia in a vibrant new album with his group Imagine. “Songs My Mom Liked,” which will be released on June 21 on Origin Records, revisits favorite pieces from Branker’s repertoire with Donny McCaslin, Philip Dizack, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Rudy Royston, Pete McCann, and Aubrey Johnson.

As with the previous album, there is an extremely meticulous effort between personal compositions and arranged titles that give body to this album. The sensitivity in the way Anthony Branker directs his group “Imagine” is particularly notable, as is the love he has for his mother, encapsulated in these words : “She had a beautiful voice,” he enthuses. “She sang all the time, with so much emotion and passion, and she had this lovely vibrato that always made me cry. Music was always so important to her, and I try to convey that same emotion in my own music.”

Beyond the theme of this album, there is all the talent of the composer, a way of writing music quite similar to certain contemporary pictorial works, which remind me of some discussions I had with the painter Solombre. It is a gentle efficiency that sets the scene for the essential ; each note has its utility, its place in a whole that forms a complete work. This musical writing inevitably reminds me of a work like “Lulu On The Bridge” by Paul Auster, as Anthony Branker’s writing exudes intelligence and generosity, just like the works of the two artists I just mentioned.

The closing piece of the album, “If,” is an arrangement of a melody composed by Branker’s daughter, Parris, when she was only 11 years old, inspired by the abundance of smooth jazz the family heard on Florida radio stations during a trip to Disney World. The piece was performed by an ensemble of Branker’s students at Princeton University, with his mother joining the family in the audience. “She loved that her granddaughter had created this piece of music,” says Branker. “I had to include it on the album as a connection between my daughter and her grand Mother.”

No need to say more ; here you have everything that intellectually connects me to this great artist. His ability to draw from his own life to create is perhaps what is most fascinating. How can I put it? The joy and emotion I felt listening to this album far exceed our “Indispensables.”

“My mother had—and has—such a beautiful spirit,” Branker emphasizes. “This album is not a funeral epitaph. It is about celebrating her life.”

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, June 9th 2024

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To Buy this album

Also buy the album Spirit Songs!