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Ari Brown: Live at the Green Mill

John Barron By

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Ari Brown
Live At The Green Mill
Delmark
2007



After a decade since his last recording date as a leader, Chicago saxophonist Ari Brown triumphantly returns with the concert DVD Live at the Green Mill, filmed in June, 2007 at the legendary Chicago night club. The inspired set of Brown originals features his regular rhythm section of pianist—and brother—Kirk Brown, bassist Yosef Ben Israel and drummer Avreeayl Ra. Trumpeter Pharez Whitted adds fire to the front-line on four tracks, and percussionist Dr. Cuz tastefully fills out the rhythmic landscape on all but two tracks.

Brown's playing is vivacious and strong. His distinctive approach to improvisation is at times filled with raw energy ("Waltz of the Prophets ), and breathy lyricism ("One for Skip ). While the tenor is Brown's saxophone of choice, he turns to the soprano for his tribute to Wayne Shorter on "Shorter's Vibes. The results are awe-inspiring. Brown's whirlwind solo over the tune's hypnotic vamp and Afro-Cuban groove is one of the disc's stand-out moments. Another such moment comes during "Two Gun V, a funky one-chord dedication to Brown's wife Veda, featuring the leader blowing tenor and soprano simultaneously. More than a mere crowd pleasing tactic, the effect of both horns together is distinctively passionate.

Kirk portrays a quiet, unimposing demeanor at the piano. His playing, however, takes on a commanding presence. His solos, especially on "Richard's Tune and "One for Skip, demonstrate a level of profound musicality and sophistication. Switching to the electric keyboard and emulating a Fender Rhodes sound on "Two Gun V and "Evod, Kirk proves equally adept and discerning.

Whitted blows with strength and determination on "Richard's Tune and "Waltz of the Prophets. The trumpeter plays an alluring muted solo on "Kylie's Lullaby. No mute, however, can hold back the fiery compulsions embedded in Whitted's lines. The veteran Chicagoan is a powerful presence on the bandstand.

"Evod, the set closer, evokes the spirit of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis. The tune's rocked-out drive and fragmented melody sets up inspired multi-layered wailing from Brown; a triumphant finish to a stellar set of no-nonsense, unbridled mastery.

The bonus commentary track by Brown is an indispensable glimpse into a distinguished musical life. Brown's anecdotal style is entertaining and revealing—including the story behind his joining Elvin Jones touring band. Live at the Green Mill is also available as an audio CD.


Tracks: Richard's Tune; One for Skip; Waltz of the Prophets; Shorter's Vibes; Two Gun V; Kylie's Lullaby; Evod.

Personnel: Ari Brown: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Pharez Whitted: trumpet (1,5,6,7); Kirk Brown: piano, keyboard; Yosef Ben Israel: bass; Avreeayl Ra: drums; Dr. Cuz: percussion.

Production Notes: NTSC Region Free Coding. Recorded at 24bit/96kHz High Resolution Audio live on June 22 & 23, 2007 at the Green Mill, Chicago, Illinois. Includes bonus commentary by Ari Brown.

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