Labeled as a blues singer, pianist Charles Brown walks the line between jazz, blues and a long lost genre, popular music. Born in 1922 and classically trained on the ivories, Brown began singing during wartime and was often compared to Nat King Cole. During the forties and fifties, singing R&B didn’t mean rap nor did it imply electric vamp. Brown was a stylist and cool ballad practitioner.
This re-release of a 1992 Muse date again blurs the line between blues and jazz. Brown along with saxophonist Houston Person work this sentimental session of originals and jazz standards in Brown’s laid back style. Of popular singers today that were influenced by Brown, Ray Charles comes to mind. Both men defy categorization, are both known for their distinctive voices, and have a deft touch at the keyboard. Take Brown’s solo rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight.” Brown’s playing, like Monk himself, recalls the piano tradition from stride to a blues-bop. He also takes on the instrumental “Mint Julep,” played as a slow-swing jump along with Person rather large tone. Call it jazz or blues, or something. All I know is it feels so good. Apart from the piano sound, we flock to Brown for his vocals. A phrase turned with an almost-whispered line. Like Ray Charles, Jimmy Scott, and Andy Bey, Charles Brown is an original keepsake of this very American music.
Track List:Do You Want Me?; Fool That I Am; Who’s Beating My Time; I Put Myself Together; What A Life; Mint Julep; You Are My First Love; ‘Round Midnight; Before The Evening Sun Sets; I’ve Got The Right To Cry.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.