Norman Brown: West Coast Coolin’ (2005)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Norman Brown plays rhythm & blues that's more rhythm than blues and more truthfully jazz-pop than anything else.
The guitarist's previous album, Just Chillin', was largely produced by James Poyser and Viktor Dupliaxhit-makers for Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, and Macy Grayand claimed the 2002 Grammy® for Best Pop Instrumental recording. The pair returns to helm Coolin'. But while Chillin' featured a stellar galaxy of guest vocalists (Miki Howard, Chante Moore, Michael McDonald), Brown jumps on the Coolin' vocals himself. "I wanted to go further into some of the great Soul and R&B sounds that have been such a tremendous influence on me, he allows.
Can you tell something of a musician from the company he keeps? If so, note that studio legend Jerry Hey (who's been around for so long he might have constructed arrangements for archangel Gabriel's trumpet) arranged the occasional horns and plays flugelhorn, that ultra-smooth Eric Benet frequently served as co-composer, and that the centerpiece of this set is Brown's satiny smooth cover of Marvin Gaye's soul classic, "What's Going On.
There's not a lot of "jazz here but plenty of pleasant music. Among the tracks with vocals, which Brown delivers with admirable soul and tenderness, "Come Over sounds the most seductively luscious, with the opening dove's song "I Might a cooing second.
Instrumentalist Brown takes his turns, too, saying to his jazz guitar "Let's Play on that song, "Up N At 'Em, on "Right Now and on "Missin' You, which honors the sound and feel of an earlier unexpected hit pop record by a jazz guitarist, "Is It You? by Lee Ritenour. The closer, "Remember the Time, is not a cover of the Michael Jackson hit (an easy assumption in this context) but, as Brown's fingers fly up and down the frets like a world-class masseuse, one of his tastiest instrumentals.
In other words, smooth jazz radio should be all over this release, which, oddly, is almost enough to make one think of George Benson as a jazz guitarist again.
Track Listing: I Might; Up N’ At ‘Em; West Coast Coolin’; Missin’ You; Come Over; What’s Going On; Let’s Play; Right Now; Angel; Remember the Time.
Personnel: Norman Brown, guitar, vocals; Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, rhythm guitar; James Poyser, keyboards; Pino Palladino, bass; Vikter Duplaix, programming; Wirlie Morris, keyboards, programming; Chris Bolden, programming; Jerry Hey, flugelhorn; Dan Higgins, saxophone; Reggie Young, trombone, Alex Al, bass; Luis Conte, percussion; Reggie Young, trombone; Lil’ John Roberts, drums; David Woods, vocals, keyboards, programming; Brian Culbertson, keyboards, programming; Stephen Lu, keyboards, programming; Lynn Fiddmont-Linsey, vocals; Thaddaeus Tribbett, bass; Herman Jackson, keyboards; Michael Bland, drums; Kevin Ricard, percussion.
Record Label: Warner Bros.