Rick Braun joins Jazz Attack

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When he was growing up in Allentown, Lehigh County, trumpeter Rick Braun had dreams of stardom.

He's achieved that goal, but it didn't come overnight. And not simply as an instrumentalist.

Mr. Braun, 59, joins British-born acoustic guitarist Peter White and saxophonist Steve "Euge Groove" Grove for the MCG Jazz-sponsored Jazz Attack Friday at Robert Morris University in Moon.

At age 8, Mr. Braun discovered a trumpet that an older brother left behind after he got married. "I was able to get a sound out of it, and then I discovered Herb Alpert." He later got into Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard.

As a teen Mr. Braun studied with Seymour Rosenfeld of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After attending three years at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, he lit out for Los Angeles with fellow Eastman students in a fusion band called Auracle, which released two albums on Chrysalis Records. But the keyboard player ended up with his own deal and the group disbanded.

Relegated at one point to playing in bar bands and, as a day gig, installing ceiling fans -- Rose Marie was a customer -- Mr. Braun started doing session work and eventually fell in with REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin. They performed in a group called The Strolling Dudes and wrote a song, "Here With Me," that REO recorded.

That songwriting jump-started his career as a solo artist.

"I wrote some songs that were instrumental -- they were therapy for me -- and I played them for a music publisher," Mr. Braun says. His first CD, "Intimate Secrets," was released in 1992 on Mesa/Bluemoon Records.

Mr. Braun has longstanding relationships with his other two headliners.

Mr. Braun and Mr. White came to Pittsburgh in 1998 with the ongoing "Guitars & Saxes" tour -- re-dubbed "Guitars, Saxes & More" -- and they tour annually with alto saxophonist Mindi Abair for "A Peter White Christmas," which appeared at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in 2012.

"We've been doing that for the last 11 years," Mr. Braun says. "It's turned into a thing that so many people have made a part of their Christmas holidays."

As for Mr. Grove, he's known him for 30 years, before he joined Tower of Power during its early-1990s resurgence. "When I needed a sax solo, Euge was my first choice."

Mr. Braun released a new CD, "Can You Feel It," two weeks ago. "It is kind of a big deal," Mr. Braun says. "It's my first smooth-jazz CD in five years -- it's been getting really great reviews despite the fact that I'm on it." The audience on Friday will hear the single "Get Up and Dance," currently topping the smooth-jazz charts and the studio version featuring saxophonist Dave Koz. The backup band comprises keyboardist Ron Reinhardt, Dazz Band bassist Nate Phillips and drummer Eric Valentine.

Mr. Braun is encouraging people to come to the show and buy CDs. "I've got kids," he says.

Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.

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