When Rick Braun and Peter White take the stage at the Sweetwater Pavilion next weekend, Fort Wayne audiences will be able to see firsthand why each performer has been so successful for so many years. And when Braun and White join forces, there’s a definite magic which highlights the many years of friendship and collaboration which has allowed them to record and perform together for more than two decades while each continuing to work individually and with other jazz greats.
The multi-talented Braun, a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, began playing the trumpet in his youth and eventually attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he played with a jazz-fusion group. He recorded as a singer and worked as a songwriter while covering a variety of genres from jazz to rock and pop. Having worked with a variety of high-profile artists over the years, including Natalie Cole, Tom Petty, and Sade, Braun is a highly sought-out artist in both the studio and on the road.
British guitarist White is also an accomplished studio and touring musician as well as a successful songwriter. Having co-written the Al Stewart hit “Time Passages,” White collaborated with Stewart for 20 years and has also collaborated with a list of well-known artists including Grover Washington Jr.
Like Braun, White began his recording career in the early 1990s, and he has won several awards in the Smooth Jazz genre. Given their high-profile careers and wide-ranging musical experiences, it may not be surprising that Braun and White would cross paths. But the first time they met didn’t necessarily suggest such a long-lasting partnership.
“I first met Rick in the early ’90s when he was playing at a Sade concert,” White said. “I went to see the show here in L.A., and I knew several people in the band because they were mostly British. So I went back to say hello and met Rick after the show. I thought he was a great trumpet player, but at the time he just said, ‘Great, gotta dash.’ But soon after he called me for some advice about management. He and his record company were in the midst of a dispute, and he wanted to find a manager, so I suggested he talk to my manager, Steve Chapman. He’s been my manager now for about 30 years, and after Rick talked to him, he hired Steve to be his manager, too. So that’s how we came to start playing together, and that was in 1996 which is now, what, 22 years.”
Braun also remembers feeling an immediate connection with the guitarist and is grateful for his help in securing Chapman as a manager.
“Peter and I met, and I instantly liked him right away,” Braun said. “He is just the nicest guy, and he helped me get together with Steve Chapman who has been with me ever since. There are a lot of unscrupulous people in the music business, and Steve has never steered me wrong.”
Sharing a manager, they also began sharing some performance opportunities, beginning with a Christmas performance at the Los Angeles radio station WAVE. That not only led to future performances, but also signaled one of the duo’s lasting traditions: an annual Christmas tour which will take place again later this year. But the partnership has extended far beyond that one time of year.
“We had a lot in common from the beginning,” Braun said. “We’d both been sidemen for a long time and had played with a lot of rock n’ roll performers. He had played with Al Stewart, I had played with Rod Stewart. So we had that Stewart connection. We just had an immediate musical kinship, so it was like riding a bike, which was so awesome.”
Each continues to record and perform individually, though they are also guests on each other’s albums as well. While they have one Christmas CD which they recorded together, they have yet to do another duo release. White says he very much wants to do one, and Braun agrees.
“We absolutely want to do that,” Braun said. “We recently had a conversation about it. I host a river cruise in Europe each year, and Peter always joins me and performs on that. This year we went on the Danube, next year we’re going on the Rhine River, and in 2020 we’ll travel the Rhone River in France. But we had a conversation on that cruise about it. There’s no timetable yet, but it first begins with a discussion and an intent. Now we just have to find the time because we both have a lot of touring.”
When asked what audiences can expect if they’re seeing Braun and White together for the first time, White said he doesn’t like to answer questions like that, preferring that audiences come with no set expectations. But he does know what keeps his partnership with Braun moving forward.
“We inspire each other,” White said. “He’s amazing. He’s the best trumpet player in the world. And when we work together, I’m totally inspired.”
Braun is less reticent about addressing expectations and promises a wide-ranging and familiar setlist for their show in Fort Wayne next Saturday.
“We are a collection of everything we are and all of our performances over the years,” Braun said. “We’re two veterans, and we’re having a good time. Our chemistry together is great, and people can expect a broad spectrum of music. I like to play a lot of jazz standards, but I also play a lot of funk, too. I’ve played with War, so people can expect excerpts from that. Peter has had a lot of songs at No. 1, and I’ve had No. 1 songs. So even people who don’t know who we are may be surprised to recognize a lot of songs we’ve played. Basically, people can expect to come to our shows and have a good time.”