Chillin’ by Norman Brown – Reviewed by Chris Mann
vocalist and guitar stylist Norman Brown was eight years old
when he was so captivated by his brother’s acoustic guitar
that his brother gave it to him.
Brown had grown up listening to the music of Jimi
Hendrix, The Isley Brothers and Kool and the Gang.
interest in playing jazz started when he heard guitar legend Wes
Montgomery for the first time and related immediately to what he
heard. Motivated to learn Montgomery’s songs by his father’s
promise of his car for the night, Norman developed his
with local bands followed, playing first R&B covers and
later contemporary jazz.
the mid-’80s, Brown moved to Los Angeles to study music
formally at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood.
After graduating, he became an instructor at the
institute and began his association with the MoJazz label,
recording three solo albums, before signing with Warner Bros.
“Just Chillin’” is his second album for Warners.
in guitar heaven as the first notes from that guitar trickle
from my speakers. This
groove-laden gem, The Feeling I Get,
reminds me why a new Norman Brown release is an event!
A lovely electric piano solo adorns an already perfect
easy to be drawn into this music.
On the title track, deft cymbal and percussion work opens
a song which has effortless cool, some old-school keyboard
sounds and the timeless brass of three giants – Jerry hey,
Larry Williams and Bill Reichenbach.
If the names aren’t familiar, look at your old soul and
jazz-funk records and CD’s again…
Brown captures the urban soul mood well – ably assisted by
producer Paul Brown. Chanté
Moore provides the sweet vocal on Feeling the Way.
So many modern R & B acts cop an attitude and miss
the point. This has
style and substance.
groove is back on Night Drive.
It’s a finger-snappin’ delight with the smooth horn
sounds of man-of-the-moment Rick Braun and percussion courtesy
of veteran jazzer Paulinho Da Costa.
McDonald must be a busy man and his silky vocal on I Still
Believe shows why. The
guitar takes a back seat on this ballad until the elegant,
ultra-clean solo. Ahh…
your shoes off and move the chairs well back.
Dancing in the House is a
joyous celebration with scat vocals, the swinging bass of Pino
Palladino and a crazy Brazilian rhythm powering the whole thing.
“After the Storm”, Brown covered a Janet Jackson song and
this time he’s back with the pretty Let’s
Wait Awhile. It’s
slow and romantic and the acoustic guitar in the background is
the icing on the cake.
mood stays romantic for the urban love song Won’t
you Stay. The
rhythm is choppy and doesn’t flow like some songs here.
The vocals (both lead and background) are gorgeous and a
few plays of this song will have it haunting you…
You’ve been warned!
“Caravan of Love”-style soft funk groove with handclaps
carries the thoughtful In my Life.
The background vocals are flawless.
album ends on a sexy note with Not Like
you Do, with its breathy vocal from soulstress Mikki
Howard, underpinned by a slow, insistent rhythm.
When she sings “I could spend forever in this room”,
I know just what she means.
quality of writing, musicianship and production here is
unbelievably high – the whole CD is so enjoyable that
(unusually) I can’t pick out a favourite song.
If I’m preaching to the converted here, I’m happy –
you’ve possibly had as much pleasure from Norman Brown’s
music as I have. If
this is the first you’ve heard about him, I hope your nearest
record store is not far. Go
Warner Bros. 47995
– Producer Paul Brown