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Braxton Cook asks, ‘Who are you when no one is watching?’

Braxton Cook
Lauren Desberg
Braxton Cook

While almost everyone is sharing the most polished and curated versions of themselves, Braxton Cook is asking “Who Are You When No One Is Watching?”

Actually, as it turns out, it’s a question he’s asking of himself, and in a somewhat postmodern and ironic twist, he’s doing it quite publicly on his new record, called (surprise!) Who Are You When No One Is Watching? which comes out February 24 on Nettwerk Records.

Braxton Cook is an artist of his time. That is, he’s hard to define, hard to categorize, highly educated, determined to share his most authentic self and in a constant state of searching.

He’s a Juilliard-trained jazz saxophone player who has worked with jazz artists Christian Scott (now Chief Adjuah), Christian McBride Big Band, Jon Batiste and Marquis Hill, as well as more mainstream artists like Solange Knowles and Tom Misch.

He’s also a deeply sensitive solo artist, singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist who is committed to keeping the saxophone alive in soul music, speaking his own personal truth in his songs, and bridging the gap between jazz, soul, and alternative R&B. In other words, he’s a millennial jazz artist. No wonder he opened his 2017 album Somewhere In Between with the song “Millennial Music.”

We spoke recently about his trajectory, starting out on the local scene in Washington D.C. as a high school and college student (he spent two years at Georgetown University studying English with a concentration in African American Studies and playing gigs in town before transferring to Juilliard to pursue his jazz education), his evolution from soloist to singer, sideman to leader, and child to parent. We also talked about the value of nostalgia and deep emotional connection in his writing, intentionality in raising children, his determination to make “music with impact”, where he cut his teeth and if that has anything to do with his lifelong fascination with dentistry.

Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist and podcast host based in Brooklyn, New York.