After forty years of playing with the likes of Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Donald Byrd, and Ed Blackwell, Cameron Brown finally steps out for his debut as a leader. Recorded live, the band includes Leon Parker on drums and Dave Ballou on trumpet and flugelhorn, plus a couple of cameos by tenor titan Dewey Redman and a moving van full of vocalese, courtesy Sheila Jordan.
Like Brown, Jordan crossed paths wiith Cherry on record several times, so their pairing on Cherry’s “Art Deco” smacks of affection. Starting out as a slow strolling duet, Brown and Jordan flirting, Parker discreetly tapping cymbal, Ballou answers Jordan’s coy delivery, then takes over. His muted solo flows through Brown’s pulsing bass. With Parker and Ballou out, he bounces around the melody, demonstrating the harmonic sense that keeps him employed. Jordan returns to improvise lyrics before wordlessly improvising melody with Brown following suit.
The standard “For All We Know” opens with a sweet, slow intro by Redman and Ballou, and Jordan goes from girlish to world-weary. In another intimate duet with Brown, Parker whispers with brushes. Redman takes over from Jordan and sounds even sadder. Like Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman may be better known for his out playing, but he can trouble your heart with a ballad. Ballou makes his case on flugelhorn, then Redman and Jordan walk out consoling each other. Brown, Ballou, and Jordan play unison to put jump into Brown’s spirited “Rylie’s Bounce.” The composer goes first and dazzles with ideas and big hands. Jordan sings a brief intro, then launches a strenuous run. Ballou takes his time with the rhythm section keeping the pressure on him.
Jordan turns medicine woman for the intro to Cherry’s “Remembrance,” from Complete Communion. After doubling with Ballou, Jordan effectively works her earthy middle range wordlessly. Redman returns for “Medley:What Reason Could I Give/For Dad and Dannie.” The veteran tenor player cradles the somber tune with the rhythm section laying low. Ballou keeps it sweet on flugelhorn. Don Pullen’s highly changeable “Double Arc Jake” proves no problem for Brown’s probing lines. Ballou flies around him with Parker slapping the tom. Jordan repeats the title until it becomes texture. Parker takes the spotlight, before Ballou and Jordan double the tricky theme.
Brown’s maiden voyage certainly raises the hope of many return trips.
Sheila Jordan - Vocals; Dewey Redman - Tenor Sax; Cameron Brown - Bass; Leon Parker - Drums; Dave Ballou - Trumpet, Flugelhorn.