I can remember when I was a little boy, and I would sit watching my mother frost or ice a cake. My mouth would start to water and the excitement would build as I waited for her to finish making those smooth, creamy swirls so I could lick the beaters of the hand mixer (do they still have those?), take a spoon and dive into more of that creamy stuff lining the bowl. Tom Braxton’s CD Imagine This recreated that same feeling for me the first time I put it into my CD player. The man goes beyond smooth. He is the icing on the cake and I could not wait to taste the next new groove I was about to hear.
The fun gets started with a cover of Steely Dan’s "Peg," authored by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Braxton triples on keyboards, soprano and tenor saxes. He also produced and wrote the instrumental arrangements for the song. Kevin Whalum handled the vocal arrangements and also provided background vocals with Kimberly Mont. I would like to say that this is a very good CD, but those words seem so inadequate when describing track after track of glorious grooves, melodies and rhythms. Braxton’s soprano saxophone courts Brian Simpson’s piano chops on "Escape," a Joe Ninowski tune. C.J. Roland and Ninowski’s percussion keep the dance lively.
Braxton wrote or collaborated on six of the eleven tracks for Imagine This, including the very pretty and easygoing title track, which features Kirk Whalum playing tenor sax. Whalum and Braxton create a pillowy ambience built upon some strong bass playing by Braylon Lacy. Kevin Whalum teams up, this time with Selinza Mitchell, to provide some subdued, but ethereal vocals on "Kaanapali Beach." Mitchell appears again on "1 a.m." Daran DeShazo serves up some great Latin infused guitar riffs, while the horns are everywhere on this song. Braxton put together some super arrangements for Larry Spencer’s trumpet, Pete Branham (tenor sax), Braxton’s own tenor and soprano saxes.
R&B is the order of the day with "Haven’t You Heard" and this time it is vocalist Andrea Wallace’s turn to shine, turning in a beautiful high soprano effort, bordering on a falsetto. The song moves quickly, but lightly without being hindered by heavy beats. By the time I got to the seventh track "Evening Drive," I began asking myself if there is any instrument that Tom Braxton cannot play. Up to this point on the CD, he had already played two different saxophones, the piano and keyboards. On "Evening Drive," he plays the flute as well as the aforementioned instruments. Braxton uses his keyboard to create a vibes an ethereal vibes like effect.
"Downtime," "Rest Assured," and "Revelation" are other great tunes to listen for on Tom Braxton’s Imagine This. All I have to say about this CD in closing Imagine a booklet of songs as good as This.