Monday, February 27, 2017

Norman Brown, a protegee of...

Norman Brown, a protegee of Norman Connors, has delivered us so many wonderful songs over the past 18 years and the quality does not stop there. His cool, summery hook-ridden compositions are really endearing to me, and although he does scrape into the yawn-inducing 'smooth Jazz' category there is so much more to him than the rest of those who he is within touching-distance of. far from being bland, spineless and appealing to late-night shoppers or lift attendants, Norman Brown has real teeth and is very much his own man. The richness of his sound, the soulful and considered delivery sets him way above many of his peers and as such there is little that this man can do which I would find wrong. Like Najee and other from the pre-muzak revolution, Norman inflicts the genre with inspiration and colour. He uses vocals where he can, and no better is our Norman when he involves a singer or two. For my money, though, the instrumentals are the winners here. I am drawn into the warm Wes Montgomery sound and Norman is definitely a master of his trade.
 
The bright, breezy and optimistic opener "Come Go With Me" works a treat and would get Benson fans tapping their feet - not unlike something off of his Mojazz sets, this is a real treat and the summer timbales and fender keyboards may be subtle yet they work perfectly. Listen closely and hear the intricacy of the groove. Nice! the Eric Gale-ish "Here Is My Number" is also a real treat. I have loved playing this in the car, feeling the warm summer breeze - just a perfect groove for a day like today. The semi vocal effort "Sending My Love" is also effective, and the odd quirky 80s keyboard touch is a welcome, and not at all anachronistic, addition. The song that i have fallen in love with is the deep, rich "Special Moments". Summer was made for a song like this...the deep, resonant bass pitched against the gorgeous guitar and warm keys is sheer aural luxury and something that I can savour over and over and over again. The key changes are spine-tingling and if a CD can be worn out then this track may be one to try and see if that is actually a possibility!
 
The contemporary vocal effort "I'm Pouring My Heart Out" is another gem and those who loved Charlie Singleton's work with the James Blackwell Project should find this equally essential. Following this is yet another winning instrumental in the Benson / Montgomery bag - totally in the pocket and great for the car or - as I am increasingly known - for the headphones. The final, yet rather short, cut is also a vocal effort, and is again a contemporary flavour - I detect that damn-awful autotune in the background though...when will this DREADFUL practice disappear up the Appian way?! This is very minor here and relegated to the background - where it belongs in my book - and still does not disappoint as a closing song. So, 2010 sees the return of this new master of Jazz, and I for one will always welcome new material from him, vocal or not.
Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe