Jazz Guitarist Norman Brown

Norman Brown is another of the newer talents I like to spend a little time with. Quick, smooth and precise, Norman is easy to listen to while reading, driving, cooking, partying, a whole range of activities. Brown does all of his own arrangements and creates some great combinations of talent and instruments.

Guitarist Norman Brown

Guitarist Norman Brown

His 2008 album After the Storm was Jazz Album of the Year on at least two charts. It is one of my favorites and it features a great version of  That’s the Way Loves Goes, a composition by James Harris, Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson.

Another great track on this CD is Norman’s shift to the acoustic guitar. Titled  Acoustic Time, this is a soft, lovely tune:

Brown is probably best recognized for his version of Ernie Isely’s  For the Love of You, which gets tons of play on all smooth jazz radio stations and live streams.

Speaking of live jazz streaming, Norman Brown (like the jazz radio pioneer Dave Koz) broadcasts a great show every weekend on The Smooth Jazz Network.  The link is http://smoothjazznetwork.com

I also really enjoy Norman’s Just Between Us CD.

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Down To The Bone – the non-band

DTTB logo

When I am looking to get groovy, get funky. When I am in one of those moods where I want my shoulders shaking and my head bobbing, I put on a little Down To The Bone. I call them a non-band because DTTB is essentially the genius of Stuart Wade – DJ, mixer, producer – pushed through a varying mixture of musicians.

Stuart Wade

Stuart Wade

Wade never studied music, nor does he play any instrument. He is not a composer, in the traditional sense. Rather, he “creates music” by humming tunes and grooves into a Dictaphone, or face-to-face with musicians in the recording studio. Over several years he has collaborated with a sizable group of musicians in producing three very successful albums with a new one about to be released. If this sounds kind of bush-league to you, take a few minutes and listen to the two sample tracks below.

My favorite is From Manhattan To Staten, released in 1997 by nuGroove Records. This is a collection of funky beats and cool Jazz. Take a sample of the opening track, Staten Island Groove:

My favorite DTTB track, without a doubt, is Brooklyn Heights. In fact, it is one of my favorite Jazz tracks of all time. I defy you to keep still with this track going at a decent volume. I love to listen to this one through my Sennheiser headphones, getting every note from every instrument. My grandson, Evan, when he was just a wee tot, became a groovy dancer when I would put on a little Brooklyn Heights. Cutest thing ever. If you’re holding a beverage, put it down before you listen to this tune:

Manhattan to Staten cover

Manhattan to Staten cover

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Some Newer Guys I Listen To

I have been writing a lot about the Big Band & Swing eras and, consequently, featuring a lot of performers who did their best work many, many years ago. I have been pushing Hoagy Carmichael‘s Stardust, Swing bands like those led by Larry Elgart and Walt Levinsky. I do love the old stuff, and play a lot of Dizzy, Brubeck, Benny Goodman and Satchmo.

But I have been asked a few times, recently, if I don’t listen to any “new stuff,” anybody young who is writing arranging and recording now. I do. I definitely do. So, over the next few days, or weeks, I am going to try to feature some of the newer stuff I like to listen to. In no particular order of preference, just beginning with what is closest at hand today, I like:

LEE RITENOUR

I have been listening to Jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour for several years. I first knew about him as one of the founding members, along with pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason, of the top Jazz group Fourplay. But, in truth, I had been hearing Ritenour play long before I knew his name. he worked as a key session guitarist with talents as diverse as Pink Floyd, Steely Dan (on Aja, which has been a recent topic), Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King, Peggy lee, and Herbie Hancock. How good do you have to be on the guitar to be requested by B.B. King?

Lee Ritenour

Lee Ritenour

I have several Fourplay CDs, my favorite being Between the Sheets. Of Lee’s solo CDs, I like This Is Love, from which the song Ooh-Yeah has continued to get major play on jazz radio.

My favorite Ritenour effort, however, is his collaboration with Dave Grusin on the CD Two Worlds. These two have done a good bit of work together, producing several albums. Two Worlds is a thing apart because of the musical selections AND the involvement other talented collaborators, like soprano Renee Fleming, violinist Gil Shaham and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. The album opens with J.S. Bach’s Concerto in A Minor for Four Keyboards and Strings:

Concerto in A Minor

Dave Grusin

Dave Grusin

Track 3 – Sonatina is, according to the Album Notes, “an homage to the genius of Andres Segovia (1893-1987) the Spanish guitarist whose artistry was almost single-handedly responsible for the 20th Century revival of the guitar as a ‘classical’ instrument.” Segovia’s legacy is well-served here. Listen up:

Sonatina

Track 11 _ Siciliana has cellist Julian Lloyd Webber joining ‘our boys’ for another Bach piece, as transcribed by Dave Grusin. This is nice:

Siciliana

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