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Deborah Brown Sings a Tribute to Duke Ellington Vocalist Ivie Anderson, Amsterdam

Guy Zinger By

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Bimhuis
Amsterdam, Netherlands
December 17th, 2009

Remembering her father's trombone, Deborah Brown used her dark and somewhat husky voice as a perfect musical instrument with brass-like gestures to paint a beautiful picture. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Brown has made a name for herself with appearances around the world and many albums. This concert was full of admiration and respect for the incomparable bluesy voice of Ivie Anderson who, though forgotten by many, is critically acclaimed and still remembered by many for her association with the Duke Ellington band, 1931-1942. Another noteworthy appearance by the vocalist was in the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937) . Anderson had to leave Ellington due to a severe case of chronic asthma, eventually leading to her demise at the age of 44. Brown's voice along with Eric Ineke's quintet JazzXpress and the Bimhuis' intimate and exposed stage were a perfect setting for this performance.


Brown's perfect technical skills and her marvelous scatting functioned as a sixth instrument (with or without words)—at times sounding like her father's trombone, only 3-4 octaves higher. His music streamed into her childhood ears in abundance. She didn't care much for the sound at that time, but it has nevertheless left such a big imprint that in later years she's become a major keeper of a flame that began as a spark in childhood. In this event she radiated jazziness whenever she spoke, sang or scatted.

The JazzXpress opened the show with an instrumental piece based on the chords of "There Will Never Be Another You," with saxophonist Sjoerd Dijkhuizen keeping it smooth, slow and thoughtful with a touch of Stan Getz in his solos.

When Deborah Brown entered following the opening number, it was as though the quintet rematerialized into a sextet (Brown being the sixth instrument), playing "It Don't Mean A Thing," "My Old Flame" and "I'm Satisfied"—all with a fresh approach to phrasing. "I'm Satisfied" began with a bass solo by Marius Beets followed by a bass-vocal duet with Brown. The piece proved a fruitful playground for Brown's ability to bend timing while being exposed with only bass as accompaniment. Brown knew how to make the transition vocally from an intimate to a big-band voice, even in the middle of the tune.

Onwards with the show. "I've Got It Bad And That Ain't Good" was a memorable rendition played slowly and in a lyrical manner. "All God's Chillun" came next with a mighty scat section culminating in a dialog between Brown and Eric Ineke's drums—the drums playing the tune (excepting a few seconds of Oklahoma's "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top"), with Brown improvising on the tune and answering Ineke with a high-pitched vocal trombone.

Following was "Mood Indigo," taken as an exquisitely slow bossa nova, "Solitude," and "I'm Checkin' out, Goom-bye," which was the most intimate song of the evening.

The second part of the concert was (surprisingly) in Brown's own words "an homage to bebop music," containing various tunes from Brown's albums—mostly from Euroboppin' (Alfa Jazz, 1986). Brown and the JazzXpress proved themselves an interactive ensemble with lots of artistic freedom, mastering the art of improvisation.


Personnel: Deborah Brown: vocals; Rodolfo Fereira Neves: trumpet; Sjoerd Dijkhuizen: tenor sax; Rob van Bavel: piano; Marius Beets: Contrabass; Eric Ineke: drums
Photo credit Marc Heeman

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