James T Braxton

James T. Braxton holds his tenor Saxophone in his arms and gives it a gentle kiss. “This one’s No. He said, glancing affectionately at Berniece Branxton, his wife of 55-years. For generations, music has been an integral part the family’s life. Braxton, a Oklahoma native, said that he was a child when he first learned how to play the piano. Later, saxophone and violin lessons were taken at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. “My father sang in church and in community choirs… he had a rich vocal range, and encouraged us to be musicians.” Braxton graduated from high school and decided to go into plumbing. He attended Tuskegee Institute. “One of the most respected trade schools in America,” he said. Then he laughed, adding, “If you stayed there, you’d be a wealthy plumber right now.” After two years of high school, Braxton decided to take a sabbatical. A college friend had told him about his summer job in Atlantic City as a waiter. Braxton said that Braxton had been there before and earned a lot of money. So another friend and me decided to go along. He said that the pair was looking for work after just a few weeks. “This was because they were very accommodating about our abilities. Let’s just say that we weren’t made to be waiters. He wasn’t quite ready to give up. Braxton claimed that they had been playing an informal session in a newly opened nightclub with other musicians when “this guy” approached them and asked if they were working. We told him no, and he gave us a slip paper and said, “Now you’re. “Be there tomorrow night.” Braxton spent the next two decades playing his saxophone at Atlantic City’s nightclubs. Braxton revealed that his brother was attending Wylie College near Marshall when his parents convinced him to go back and finish his education. He recalled, “It just so happens that the band required a saxophone players.” “So I joined up.” Roy Roberts, his future wife and brother in law, was there. Braxton said that Roy, his brother, and he sat together at Wylie’s stage band. Roberts arrived in Lubbock in 1960 as Dunbar High School’s band director. He then went on to college at the University of Nebraska Tyler College, the University of Denver and again to the University of Nebraska Tyler College. Braxton was his assistant band director and orchestra director, a position that he held until his retirement in 1985. Ruby Jewel and Tom Braxton were raised listening to their uncle and father’s band. They would have spontaneous family concerts in their living rooms and at Mount Zion Baptist where Braxton still plays the violin. Braxton was also a member of the Lubbock Symphony under William A. Harrod in the 1970s. The record player played the music of jazz legends Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Count Basie, which echoed through Braxton’s home. “Count Basie and Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins… Braxton spoke slowly, his voice trailing. Both the Braxton children are talented musicians, it is not surprising. Both children were piano players by the time they reached their teens. Ruby Jewel received degrees in music at Texas Tech and Southern Methodist University. After playing with Tech and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestras, Ruby Jewel returned to Texas to complete a master’s degree in business administration. His father stated that it was Tom, who demonstrated an early talent and desire for music. Braxton said that he asked Braxton whether he wanted him to play the sax or the strings. In an interview with “The Clarion-Ledger” in April 1993, Tom stated that he had a tenor and alto saxophone by age 10. He also plays soprano and alto saxophones. Braxton stated that while we encouraged their music, we didn’t want them to lose their childhood. We let them make mud pie and do all the other things kids do. Tom was a Dunbar letterman in both varsity track and football. He graduated valedictorian in the Class of 1979. His father stated that he attended Tech where he had a “most challenging career” under the guidance of Don Turner (former Tech music professor) and Dean Killion (former professor and long-time director at Tech’s Goin’ Band). Braxton stated that while at Tech, Tom and Marcel Murray (college classmates) formed “No Compromise” in which they played throughout college. Tom graduated from Tech in 1983 summa cumlaude and moved to Austin in order to pursue a career as a musician. He has performed with such modern legends as Joe Sample, George Howard, Philip Bailey, and Luther Vandross. Braxton stated that you can get the training which Tom received from an early age. But what he does now with his music is something that can’t be learned. It’s a gift from God. Tom now lives in Lewisville and established Braxtonian Music as his label. He released his first CD, “Your Move,” on December 12, 1992. According to the Philadelphia Tribune his first CD, “Your Move”, received rave reviews from Buddy Magazine and sold more than 10,000 copies. He pays tribute to his father on it with “Me and J.T.” which ends with the crooning sound of two saxophones. Tom said, “It was conversation between me and my dad.” His most recent release, “Face to Face,” is a reflection of what the younger musician once said about mixing saxophone and religious music. Jazz and other forms of music are rooted in the church, but jazz was not played there for a while. It was considered “bar music.” Tom has been a regular performer in the Dallas area, at the Texas Jazz Festival, Corpus Christi, and the Greenwood Jazz Festival, Tulsa. He also made appearances at LakeRidge United Methodist Church, March 1999. Braxton is often seen in the audience and ends up on stage with his son when he’s there. Braxton stated that Braxton somehow drags him up on stage, and that he doesn’t resist. The recording of the father-son duo was not made until last fall. Braxton stated that Tom said he wanted to record him playing. Braxton’s cassette, “J.T.,” was the result. Braxton’s first cassette release, “J.T.” features arrangements like Duke Ellington’s”Perdito.” Braxton explained that they were what used to be called “standards” as his rendition of the song echoed through the speakers. These were the songs you would hear at the dances. His talent is evident in the cassette recording and the many honors and awards that adorn the family’s paneled living rooms. These are a testimony to the many hours he has spent outside of school so that music can continue. From lubbockonline.com

Leave a Comment