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Twin Groove

Braxton Brothers

San Francisco's Braxton Brothers step out at Club Ibex

By Nicky Baxter

The Braxton Brothers are a good example of how pop-jazz can be snappy, not sappy. Twins from San Francisco, the Braxtons meld spunky six-string lead bass with saxophone to produce a KBLX-style urban groove. The duo's self-produced Steppin' Out album contains an appealing collection of R&B-flavored numbers just right for the nightclubbing.

Which is precisely what fans got from the duo at a recent East Bay show. While bassist Nelson and his saxophonist sibling, Wayne, relied almost exclusively on themselves for their studio effort, their live performance was fleshed out by guitarist John Smith, ex-Confunktion keyboardist Brian Carter and drummer Tommy Bradford.

From the moment they high-stepped onstage, it was clear that the Brothers run the ship. Facing off centerstage, the two musicians engaged in mock battle, alternately trading phrases or playing in unison with near-telepathic empathy; "Sunset Bay" was a particularly fine example of their tight interplay.

Wayne and Nelson Braxton are as fun to watch as they are to listen to; it's obvious the two enjoy their jobs. So what if the music is a long way from Ornette/Steve Coleman's? Sometimes, even cutting-edge jazz fans need a night off from the cerebral stuff.

Opening for the Braxtons at their Club Ibex show will be vocalist Erica Berry, whose creamy style recalls the golden age of soul. Her debut album, Life & Love, balances obligatory grinding-time pieces with up-tempo '90s beats. Working within R&B's formulaic strictures, Berry covers a considerable amount of territory.

The Braxton Brothers and Erica Berry perform May 9 at 7 and 10pm at Club Ibex, 55. S. Market St., San Jose. Tickets are $15. (408/971-IBEX)

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