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Derek Brown: All Figured Out

Robin B James By

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Derek Brown: All Figured Out
The recommended first exposure to this guy originally from Alma, Michigan, saxophonist Derek Brown, is through YouTube. His solo adventures and small ensemble numbers (mostly duets) are great fun. He has a very playful spirit and complicated sense of humor. He likes to play in acoustically interesting places which range from creepy but beautifully lit old abandoned houses to grain silos, warehouses, odd echoey chambers, huge wet basements, and well, the fun is seeing it for yourself. Saxophones are powerful instruments, but Brown takes this 1840s era musical machine to places Adolphe Sax never intended and probably never dreamed of. The design of a saxophone is for the breath to simply be converted into musical tones, but Derek does all that athletically and then he just laughs, and the two—man and machine—become a unit, a thing that has a beat, it has tones, sometimes words, enough legs, several feet, many arms, lots of fingers, way up front is the brass, the center holds lots of heart, he smacks his lips on the mouthpiece, does extended techniques like something called "slap tongue" and double-tonguing, but the amazing valve noises...

Let's talk about the valve noises. Most saxophone players try to hide those sounds, but Brown? Noooooooo. He has it down. The valves are percussive and he has a whole new way of playing beats with those metal tube popper stoppers. There are no special effects or overdubs, its just all Derek, in real time.

They (this sax and flesh unit) use everything imaginable to make sound and it is a hoot to experience. The name of his experience is the BEATBoX SAX, and he does it all to present a full sound event each time he plays. When he does the duet/collaborative thing, everyone is strong. When he is solo, nothing is missing. So when offered a chance to experience this human tornado with a full orchestra, well, one would be still looking for the top of one's head. This is Brown's third album. It has nine songs that provide each of the musicians an opportunity to give it their all, and the reason it works is that Derek Brown just loves what he does, and it transfers perfectly.

The first track on the album, "Prelude," lays out the whole premise in less than a minute. You hear the big orchestra with all the extras. You get the full bodied flavor all in one deliciously tantalizing track. There are vocals on the title track, "All Figured Out." The other eight tracks are instrumentals. The Hope College Brazilian Drumming Ensemble joins in and brings it all back home on the final track, "The Good Fight," plus some daring grungy guitar madness. Bottom line, the music on All Figured Out is not based on the freakshow beat-box gimmick. Derek Brown is a seasoned and skilled virtuoso saxophonist who consistently delivers excitement and great music because he has found that spot within that music comes from and he brings his fellow musicians there with great passion.

Track Listing

Prelude; Human Error; Again; A Simple Gesture; Vantage Point; All Figured Out; The Pursuit; Hoping for the Best; The Good Fight.

Personnel

Derek Brown: saxophone, tenor; The Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra: band/orchestra; The Hope College Jazz Arts Collective: band/orchestra; Hope College Brazilian Drumming Ensemble: band/orchestra; Anna Janowski: violin; Lian Robinson: violin; Abigail Finnegan: viola; Elizabeth Bachwich: cello.

Additional Instrumentation

Anna Janowski, Lian Robinson, Abigail Finnegan, Elizabeth Bachwich (1, 7); The Hope College Jazz Arts Collective (9); Brazilian Drumming Ensemble (9).

Album information

Title: All Figured Out | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced

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