Born: August 28, 1958 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor/leader
Composer Anthony Branker has recorded for Origin Records and Sons of Sound Records and has six releases in his fast growing and musically rich discography. They include: Spirit Songs (Sons of Sound, 2006), Blessings (Origin Records, 2009), Dance Music (Origin Records, 2010), Dialogic (Origin Records, 2011), Together (Origin Records, 2012), and Uppity (Origin Records, 2013). He leads two jazz collectives that include Anthony Branker & Ascent and Anthony Branker & Word Play, which have featured Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Ralph Bowen, Andy Hunter, Clifford Adams, Conrad Herwig, Eli Asher, Jonny King, Jim Ridl, Bryan Carrott, Kenny Davis, John Benitez, Belden Bullock, Donald Edwards, Adam Cruz, Ralph Peterson Jr., Wilby Fletcher, Renato Thoms, Kadri Voorand, and Freddie Bryant.
Anthony Branker & Ascent's Dance Music CD made it to the #1 spot on the Roots Music Report (RMR) National Jazz Radio Charts and hit #25 on the JazzWeek National Radio Charts, where it also enjoyed 8 weeks in the Top 50 and 15 weeks in the Top 100. Dance Music was also selected to list of the “Top Jazz Albums of 2011” by the Roots Music Report National Jazz Radio Charts, where it placed at #19. The group's 2012 Together CD release - featuring alto saxophonist Mark Gross, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, pianist Jonny King, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Donald Edwards - has enjoyed 12 weeks in JazzWeek's Top 100 Jazz Album Chart and two weeks in the Top 50. Spirit Songs, the first CD project by Anthony Branker & Ascent - with alto & soprano saxophonist Antonio Hart, Bowen, Adams, King, bassist John Benitez, and drummer Ralph Peterson - was released internationally in 2006 on the Sons of Sound record label and was cited by the Jazz Journalists Association as one of the “Top 10 new jazz releases for 2006” with the composition “Imani (Faith)” being named one of the “Top 10 best new compositions of the year.” Blessings, the collective’s second CD, which featured alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, Bowen, Adams, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, King, bassist Belden Bullock, conguero Renato Thoms, and drummer Wilby Fletcher, was released on Origin Records, and was named to the First Round in the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards Balloting in the “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” category, along with Branker’s composition “Crystal Angel” for “Best Instrumental Composition,” and Ralph Bowen’s soprano saxophone feature on Branker’s composition “The Holy Innocent” for “Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.”
Dr. Branker also leads Anthony Branker & Word Play, which currently features Ralph Bowen (tenor & soprano saxophones), Andy Hunter (trombone), Eli Asher (trumpet & flugelhorn), Jim Ridl (piano), Kenny Davis (acoustic bass), and Donald Edwards (drums). This sextet configuration recorded the CD Uppity for Origin Records for a March 2013 release date. In 2011, a quartet version of the group (with Bowen, Ridl, Davis and drummer Adam Cruz) released the CD Dialogic (Origin Records, 2011). Dialogic was selected as one of the “Top 20 Best Jazz Albums of the Past Year (2011)” by the 100 Greatest Jazz Albums Blogspot on a list that also included recordings by Keith Jarrett, Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo, Bill Frisell, Miles Davis, Tom Harrell, Christian McBride, Hank Jones, Brad Mehldau, and Charles Lloyd, among others.
As a composer, Branker has received composition prizes, commissions, served as composer-in-residence, and has had his music featured in performance at the Pori International Jazz Festival (Finland), St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (Russia), Vibe Jazz Club (Hong Kong, China), Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Lithuania), Estonia International Jazz Festival (Estonia), Mt. Fuji International Jazz Festival (Japan), JVC Jazz Festival (New York); concert and club appearances in China, Russia, France, Germany, and Australia; as well as in performance at such venues as the Iridium Jazz Club, Sweet Basil Jazz Club, The Five Spot, New York’s Symphony Space, the Fez under the Time Café, Trumpets Jazz Club, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (Australia), Sydney Conservatorium of Music (Australia), and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. In addition, his music has appeared on National Public Radio, was spotlighted at the International Jazz Composers Symposium at the University of South Florida, and has been performed by the Shanghai Jazz Orchestra in Shanghai, China.
Branker's works have been performed and/or recorded by Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Ralph Bowen, Andy Hunter, Clifford Adams, Conrad Herwig, Eli Asher, Jonny King, Jim Ridl, Bryan Carrott, Kenny Davis, John Benitez, Belden Bullock, Donald Edwards, Adam Cruz, Ralph Peterson Jr., Wilby Fletcher, Renato Thoms, Kadri Voorand, Freddie Bryant, Talib Kibwe (TK Blue), Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Steve Nelson, Stanley Jordan, Winard Harper, Joe Ford, Benny Carter, Valery Ponomarev, Cecil Brooks III, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Alex Blake, Sarah Jane Cion, Michael Cochrane, Jann Parker, Curtis Lundy, Steve Kroon, Marc Bernstein, Rick Margitza, and the Spirit of Life Ensemble. During his residency at the Estonian Academy of Music, Branker composed The Eesti Jazz Suite, a five-movement work inspired by the culture and people of Estonia. This work was premiered in November of 2006 at the academy of music as part of the concert tour of the Princeton University Jazz Composers Collective, which was sponsored by the Department of State of the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, and the Estonian Academy of Music. In 2008, Branker’s Skirting the Issue was performed by the free-thinking jazz quartet Amparo from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden and the Crossing Borders Improvisational Music Ensemble at Princeton University.
Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker holds the endowed chair of the Anthony H.P Lee Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies, is Founder and Director of the Program in Jazz Studies, and serves as Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University, where he directs an extensive list of ensembles and teaches courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, the evolution of jazz styles, and the improvising ensemble. He has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia and has also been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, Hunter College of the City University of New York, Ursinus College, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. Dr. Branker was visiting composer at the Southern Danish Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Odense/Esbjerg, Denmark; Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany; the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre; and for the Socrates/Erasmus Intensive Programme in cooperation with the European Union, the Association of Baltic Academies of Music, and the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre. He has been honored by the United States Department of Education with a Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Award, the Institute for Arts and Humanities Education Distinguished Teaching Award, the International Association of Jazz Educators Award for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education, and was the recipient of the 2004 Alumni Award presented by the Association of Black Princeton Alumni. Recently, the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education honored Dr. Branker at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark by presenting him with the 2009 Jazz Education Achievement Award for “Outstanding Accomplishment in the Field of Jazz Studies and Continued Dedication to the New Jersey Jazz Education Community.”
As a conductor, Dr. Branker has had the opportunity to work with such artists as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Conrad Herwig, Oliver Lake, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Ted Curson, Stanley Jordan, Bobby Watson, Terence Blanchard, Bob Mintzer, Ralph Peterson, Steve Nelson, Antonio Hart, Don Braden, Jacky Terrasson, Guilherme Franco, and Benny Powell. He has conducted Terence Blanchard’s Grammy Award-Winning score for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) from Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke” featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard and His Quintet with Brice Winston (tenor saxophone), Fabian Almazan (piano), Joshua Crumbly (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums) and members of the Princeton University and Rutgers University Orchestras in performance at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. In addition, he conducted the Princeton University Orchestra in world premieres of two dance works choreographed to the orchestral music of Claude Debussy’s La Boîte à Joujoux (The Toy Box) - including the U.S. Premiere of Debussy’s newly discovered “jazz overture” for this work - and John Alden Carpenter’s Krazy Kat. He has also collaborated with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and conductors Wycliffe Gordon, Loren Schoenberg, and Cecil Bridgewater on joint big band performances of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Far East Suite and Ellington’s New Orleans Suite at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.
Dr. Branker has appeared as conductor with the Jugend Sinfonie Orchester (Bremen, Germany), Israel’s Kiryat Ono Symphonic Youth Band, Japan’s Fukui Junior Orchestra, Estonian Academy of Music Big Band (Tallinn, Estonia), Hunter Jazz Repertory Orchestra (New York), Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble, New Jersey Intercollegiate All State Jazz Ensemble, and the New Jersey All State High School Jazz Ensemble featuring performances at NJPAC in Newark and at the New Jersey Education Association Convention at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. While at Princeton, Professor Branker has led performances that have featured the Princeton University Orchestra, Sinfonia, Chapel Choir, Glee Club/Concert Choir, and Gospel Ensemble, and has directed two national award-winning jazz groups, including the Monk/Mingus Ensemble, winner of the Down Beat magazine Student Music Award for “Best Jazz Instrumental Group,” and Ensemble X, recipient of a 2003 Down Beat music award for “Outstanding Performance.” He has also directed the University Jazz Composers Collective, which has traveled to Australia, Estonia, and China for concerts as well as collaborations with international jazz studies programs. Dr. Branker has also conducted such extended works as Lalo Schifrin’s Gillespiana Suite, Ellington’s A Tone Parallel to Harlem, New World A Comin,’ Music From the Sacred Concerts, the Ellington/Strayhorn collaborative adaptation of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 & 2. In addition, he has conducted premieres of such commissioned works as Jimmy Heath’s For the Love Of, Michael Philip Mossman’s John Coltrane Suite, Bob Mintzer’s March Majestic, Ralph Bowen’s Little Miss B, Conrad Herwig’s Reflections of a Man Facing South, Randy Bauer’s Wide-Eyed Wonder, and Laurie Altman’s In Another Time.
As a trumpeter, Branker has performed and recorded with the Spirit of Life Ensemble - including a five-year residency at New York’s internationally renowned Sweet Basil jazz club. He has also appeared at the Pori International Jazz Festival (Finland); Leningrad/St. Petersburg International Jazz Festival (Russia); Kaunas International Jazz Festival (Lithuania); Estonia International Jazz Festival (Tartu, Estonia); JVC Jazz Festival at Sweet Basil (New York); Panasonic Village Jazz Festival (New York); as well as jazz club performances in France, Finland, Germany, Russia, and New York. In addition, he has worked in a variety of musical settings with such artists as Ted Curson, Talib Kibwe, Guilherme Franco & Nova Bossa Nova, Steve Nelson, Michael Cochrane, Calvin Hill, Eddie Henderson, Stanley Jordan, Benny Carter, Ralph Peterson, Terence Blanchard, Big John Patton, Roscoe Mitchell, Rick Margitza, Gary Burton, the R&B group Tavares, and has performed in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical.
Dr. Branker has received fellowships or grants from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board/Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, Princeton University, and Ursinus College. He has presented research at conferences of the International Society for Music Education (ISME), International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM), Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) / New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), Research in Music Education (RIME), International Symposium on Assessment in Music Education (ISAME), College Music Society (CMS), International Jazz Composers Symposium (IJCS), International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA), and the Princeton University Regional Conference – “Big Ideas: Science, Innovation, and Discovery.” He has also appeared as a guest lecturer for the Department of Pop & Jazz Music at Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia in Helsinki, Finland; Heino Elleri Nimeline Tartu Muusikakool, Tartu, Estonia; Kuressaare Music Academy on the Estonian island of Saaremaa; the Pop/Jazz Program at Viljandi Kultuuriakadeemia Muusikamajas in Viljandi, Estonia; Winmalee High School, Blue Mountains, Australia; National Endowment for the Humanities Paul Robeson Institute at Rutgers University; “Teachers as Scholars” program for New Jersey Educators at Princeton University; Princeton University Alumni College Seminar “New Orleans: City of Jazz” in New Orleans, Louisiana; the Plexus Institute; Drew University; and has served as program scholar for the Looking At: Jazz, America’s Art Form, a six-part documentary film viewing and discussion series at the Princeton Public Library. He has also been featured in performance with the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra as narrator of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.
Anthony D.J. Branker holds the degrees of Doctor of Education and Master of Education from Columbia University, Teachers College; Master of Music in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami; and a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Certificate in African-American Studies from Princeton University.
Awards:U.S. Fulbright Scholar
United States Presidential Scholars Teacher Award
Institute for Arts and Humanities Education Distinguished Teaching Award
New Jersey Association for Jazz Education 2009 Jazz Education Achievement Award for “Outstanding Accomplishment in the Field of Jazz Studies and Continued Dedication to the New Jersey Jazz Education Community.”
(Branker) pulls off the dandy feat of merging art and commerce making creative jazz that could leap to mass appeal...this is everything you could want in a swinging, mainstream date...simply hits it out of the park —Midwest Record Review of Together CD
A soulful album that should only be the start of any exploration of Branker's work —eMusic Review of Together CD
“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
“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...Bravo, Mr. Branker, may you continue to create and inspire.” —One Final Note
“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…” —Down Beat
“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...Spirit Songs proves that music coming from the heart will always provide a welcome setting when brought together in a cohesive community.” —Jim Santella
“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.” —Audiophile Audition
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker holds the endowed chair of the Anthony H.P Lee Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies, is Founder/Director of the Program in Jazz Studies, and serves as Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University, where he directs an extensive list of ensembles and teaches courses in jazz theory through improvisation & composition, jazz performance practice in historical and cultural context, jazz composition, the evolution of jazz styles, and the improvising ensemble. He has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia and has also been a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, Hunter College of the City University of New York, Ursinus College, and the New Jersey Summer Arts Institute. Dr. Branker was visiting composer at the Southern Danish Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Odense/Esbjerg, Denmark; Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany; the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre; and for the Socrates/Erasmus Intensive Programme in cooperation with the European Union, the Association of Baltic Academies of Music, and the Estonian Academy of Music & Theatre.
creating in collaboration; modal jazz composition, group composition & improvisation; big bands; small groups