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Interview with Bennie Braxton

Bennie Braxton's mellow 'Come To Me' from 1983 really is one of a kind, with its jazzy influences and superb vocal -and keyboard arrangements. Not the type of dancefloor killer that surround this record in danceclassics's gallery. Instead, its the laid back tempo combined with deep synthbass and Braxton's unique voice that give the record a relaxed atmosfear to chill down to. Bennie Braxton is known as a synthesizist, pianist, vocalist, composer and producer. Read the interview with Mr. Braxton below.

Hello Mr. Braxton, i'm honoured and delighted to have you featured on the site. How are you doing?

Bennie Braxton:

Hi Ed. I'm doing well, thanks.

I'm going to ask you about 'Come To Me' but first tell me; where do you come from and since when were you musically active?

Bennie Braxton:

OK, I was born in Ronoake, Virginia and raised in Washington, D.C. My mother started teaching me piano at the age of three  after observing me playing the piano while the radio was playing. My mother was and still is a minister, and both my mother and father used to play piano and sing. Unfortunately my father is no longer with us. I studied music at McKinley Tech High School, while also attending Howard University's music program for young gifted musicians. I later studied at the University of the District of Columbia where I got my Jazz training. I've played with a lot of bands over the years, but the one most recognized was Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers.

It has been a long time since you recorded 'Come To Me', this stunning record that most rare-groove collectors know very well and which is highly indemand nowadays. I remember the impact it had on me when i first listened to it. How did you come to write this mindblowing track and do you remember what equipment was used?

Bennie Braxton:

I'm flattered with the compliment. It was a typical love song. I had met someone at the time and was inspired. It was fun to write. Unfortunately, it didn't do very well in the U.S. It actually has had more success in Europe. The lead synth was a Moog Source with one note polyphony. I used to play bass on it, but it has some really good synth sound on the top end. The only problem was that you could only play one note at a time. I also used an Ensoniq TS12, a Korg and a Yamaha DX7.

You wrote and produced the song all by yourself and to my knowledge it was the only record ever to be released on the Phanelson label. How long did it take and were there other people involved apart from James Perdie, the mixing consultant? Was Phanelson your own label?

Bennie Braxton:

Yes indeed. I named the record label after my mother. Phanelson happens to be her maiden name. It's an old family name from West Virginia. Bennie is my stage name, which I came up with after I started performing on stage. The song itself took a couple of days to write and record and with the help of James, we were able to do a mix-down and final mix in about 5 hours. Phanelson Records still exists and i'm planning on re-releasing 'Come To Me' on CD next year and make sure you get a copy.

That's cool. Then your record was released in 1983. Did it make it to the radiostations and clubs?

Bennie Braxton:

It got a little air play, but here in the U.S. it is difficult to get the big break you know. I got some air play on a few stations. I remember it was awesome to be driving along and hear my record on the air. It got good reviews and was liked by a lot of people. I just couldn't get the backing I really needed to get me over the top.

'Come To Me' is quite hard to find nowadays. How many copies were pressed of the record?

Bennie Braxton:

I pressed 10,000 copies and I have about 1,000 copies left in the 12' format and about 500 45's.

On the other side of 'Come To Me' is a track called 'Blue Sky', which is more jazzy kind of music. Jazz is where your heart is right?

Bennie Braxton:

Absolutely, I have got a new version of that as well. That will also be on my CD. It's funny, originally I wanted 'Blue Sky' to be the main release. James Perdie talked me out of it. He felt that 'Come To Me' had a better shot. I've grown a lot musically since then. My ideas flow a lot better and I have better chops.

I think James Perdie's intuition was right. What other records did you make besides the Phanelson release?

Bennie Braxton:

I've recorded on Sussex Records before, with Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers. That album was called 'Salt Of The Earth', and I was the organist. I also have done a lot of studio sessions. 'Come To Me' was the only release on the Phanelson label.

You told me that you have your own recording studio in the basement of your home. Do you spend a lot of time making music or are you too busy with your job as a librarian?

Bennie Braxton:

I've got an industry standard studio in my basement but almost no time to use it. It's a 256-track virtual midi and a 24-track digital state of the art recording studio. I work as a librarian at day and play piano for prominent hotels and restaurants on weekends. I'm doing really well. I hope to finish a CD in my studio soon and make sure to let you know.

Do you still listen to soul and funk music of the 70's and 80's? And what is your opinion on contemporary music?

Bennie Braxton:

As far as the music I listen to, I listen to everything. I love Jazz, Classical, Rag, Blues, you name it. Mostly I listen to Herbie Handcock, George Duke, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Bob James, and on and on. I truly love contemporary Jazz and gospel as well. The voicings used by today's music is mindblowing. There are just so many great players out there. I love Kenny G. I listen to a lot sax players.

Let me thank you for your time and words. If you want to add anything or say something to your fans, go ahead.

Bennie Braxton:

Ed, it was my pleasure and honor to have your interest in me and my music. It's nice to know that someone heard and felt my offering to the music world. God bless! I hope to be in touch with you again soon.

Bennie Braxton

September, 2005

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