Braxton Cook doesn’t spend his days worrying about whether he’s a saxophonist who sings or a singer who plays sax. Instead, the 26-year-old Prince George’s County native minds his airspace — an attentiveness he learned from one of his teachers, jazz saxophonist Ron Blake.
“He was always really focused on air, on air being connected to our humanity, to our sound,” Cook says of his teacher. “Taking care of our bodies, and our air, and how we feel. . . . So when I’m looking for through-lines through all of these different instruments, it’s air. Airflow is the thing that people connect to.”
The currents run warm and cool on Cook’s impressive 2017 album “Somewhere in Between,” a batch of thoughtfully ventilated compositions partially shaped by the time Cook toured with the genre-dissolving trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Throughout, whether Cook is playing affectionate phrases on his alto or straight-up serenading “the one for me,” he’s always aiming at the heart. “We lose sight of emotion all the time,” he says. “There’s a seriousness in the craft, but emotion is important. It’s a childlike kind of thing that you have to protect.”
Maybe that’s the very thing that helps Cook’s ballads resonate so intensely with his young audience — a connection, that on some nights, can get tricky. “I’ll have [underage] students hitting me up like, ‘I can’t get into the show without an I.D.!’ ” Cook says.
What a terrific problem for a 21st-century jazz musician to have.
Show: Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, held at the Rockville Hilton, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville. midatlanticjazzfestival.org. $25.