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Norman Brown: Stay With Me (2007)

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Norman Brown: Stay With Me How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Often when Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum and Rick Braun appear on one anothers' albums, the collaboration makes for the best track on the release. That's mainly because three lead instruments are generally better than one. However, that isn't necessarily the case with Brown's Stay With Me.

Brown, a guitarist and vocalist who sings as well as scats, is in that niche where smooth jazz meets R&B, old-school soul and a bit of pop. The Grammy-winning artist was born in Shreveport, La., and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. His inspirations include such guitar giants as Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery and George Benson, the latter of which is closest to Brown in overall style.

For Stay With Me, Brown called on a host of contributing artists, with much of the work being done by Alex Al on bass, Teddy Campbell on drums and Herman Jackson on keyboards. The aptly named "Let's Take a Ride is a definitive example of Brown's ability to merge genres. It's cool; it's lively—perfect for a drive in the country. Brown scats, backed by Al, Campbell and Jackson, with Darryl Munyungo Jackson providing percussion.

"Pop's Cool Groove is another appropriately named track. With Roberto Vally on bass, Dave Hooper on drums, Paulinho Da Costa on percussion, Jeff Caruthers on keyboards and Anthony Long on sax, Brown shows a more soulful side. "It Ain't Over BWB reunites Brown with Whalum and Braun, revisiting the supergroup the trio created in 2002. With Al on bass, this song has a stronger element of funk than the other tracks. Herman Jackson's work on the keys is a throwback to the 1970s.

Brown stretches out on the ballad, "So in Love, supported by the same sidemen as on "Let's Take a Ride. He sings the title during the refrain, but it's his elegant guitar lead that makes this one of the better songs on the album. Campbell enhances the track with rim shots and excellent work on the cymbals.

Nine of the ten songs were written by Brown—alone or in collaboration with one or more guest artists. Brian McKnight contributes the title song which, unfortunately, is the weak link of the album. Even so, "Stay With Me is a nice song on a very good album. Brown is in the groove on this one.

Track Listing: Lets Take a Ride; You Keep Lifting Me Higher; Pops Cool Groove; It Aint Over BWB; So in Love; Stay With Me; Soul Dance; Every Little Thing; A Quiet Peace; I Need You; Outro.

Personnel: Norman Brown: guitars, vocals (1, 5, 6, 8, 10), programming (10); Alex Al: bass (1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10); Teddy Campbell: drums (1, 4, 5, 8); Darryl Munyungo Jackson: percussion (1, 4, 5, 8); Herman Jackson: keyboards (1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9), programming (1, 2); Lloyd Tolbert: keyboards (2, 9), drums (2), programming (9); Nikkole: vocals (2); Robert Vally: bass (3); Dave Hooper: drums (3); Paulinho Da Costa: percussion (3); Jeff Carruthers: keyboards (3), drums (7); Anthony Long: saxophone (3); Kirk Whalum: saxophone (4); Rick Braun: trumpet (4), flugelhorn (4); Brian McKnight: keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar and vocals (6); Prescott Ellison: drums (6); Sam Riney: saxophone (7); Kenneth Williams: acoustic guitar, programming and background vocals (10).

Record Label: Peak Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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