Larry Brown Jr.: There Can Only Be One (2012)
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A native of the small town of Venice, Illinois, guitarist Larry Brown Jr. is a deeply religious man with a big vision and plans for the future. Not only is Brown a musician and educator, but as founder of the Black Church Music Piano camp and the Music for the Heart non-profit organization, he is also a bit of a philanthropist. However, it's not his philanthropy that may bring him well-deserved attention, but rather the response to his dynamic debut, There Can Only Be One. A man with a mission to "effectuate change through the power of music," this first effort is a truly powerful musical statement from a young man determined to forge himself a place in jazz.
The guitarist presents a landscape of straight-ahead contemporary jazz, with ten innovative originals featuring a core quintet of young up-and-coming players from the Chicago area. The Gospel-tinged "Come Home" employs a series of hand claps both in the introduction and throughout, accompanied by trumpeter Quentin Coaxum's religiously solemn sound before developing its bluesy appeal. "The Blues Chronicles" features Brown's Wes Montgomery-like guitar sounds on another straight blues that also captures excellent support from pianist Stuart Mindeman, bassist and St. Louis stalwart Nick Jost, and a cymbal-splashing hard-drumming performance from the emerging Xavier Breaker.
Chicago singer Sarah Marie Young lends her vocals on "Don't Turn Away," which features both Brown and Mindeman delivering some of their best solo performances of the set. One of the album's softer moments has Brown laying down sensitive gentle chords to Breaker's swishing brush strokes on the brief but beautiful "The Falling Star." By far the most electric, high-octane tune of the session goes to the spicy title track, featuring bright solo shots from the guitarist and members of the band who claim a portion of this piece with stellar performances of their own.
Jost takes center stage with strong bass lines on "Megan's Law," a light contemporary piece with a pleasant melody; "Granma's Song" continues the light theme before the bonus track, "Sweet Baby Ray" changes the tempo to end the set with a lively piano/bass feature. Brown has designed a bold and exciting disc of creative new material, ably interpreted by an unheralded cast of players on There Can Only Be One, a debut that clearly stands out on the quality of the music and the strength of the musicianship.
Track Listing: Come Home; Just Been Thinkin'; Don't Turn Away; The Blues Chronicles; In The Eye Of The Beholder; The Falling Star; There Can Only Be One; Megan's Law; Grandma's Song; Sweet Baby Ray.
Personnel: Larry Brown Jr.:guitar; Quentin Coaxum: trumpet; Nick Jost: bass; Stuart Mindeman: piano; Xavier Breaker: drums; Sarah Marie Young: vocals (3).
Record Label: Self Produced