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Maurice Brown: Hip to Bop

John Kelman By

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Maurice Brown: Hip to Bop Sometimes it's not a good thing when young artists release their own records before they have the opportunity to pay some dues. They may possess admirable technique but have yet to develop a rounded conception that gives their music focus. A precocious trumpeter who, at the age of 23, has already played with a wide range of artists including Ramsey Lewis, Lenny White, Ellis Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller and Stefon Harris, Maurice Brown certainly cannot be accused of not having been exposed to a breadth of styles and ideas. Still, as fine a trumpet player as he is, his début release, Hip to Bop , suffers from a certain musical schizophrenia that time may ultimately fashion into a more cogent direction.

There is nothing wrong with eclecticism; artists like Wallace Roney demonstrate it all the time, with records that reveal a range of influences. But whereas Roney finds a way to merge his diverse influences into a statement with a singular focus, Brown is still searching for ways to tie together his varied interests. "Rapture," with its rapid tempo shifts and starts and stops, has its roots in Miles Davis' mid-'60s quintet. No sooner does Brown establish a rapid-fire technique, more rooted in Freddie Hubbard than Davis, then he serves up "It's a New Day," a piece of soul jazz that feels like a complete non sequitur. "Mi Amor" is a tender ballad that could easily fit in Dexter Gordon's oeuvre. "Conceptions," with its snaking theme and hard-swinging solo section, comes straight out of '60s-era Blue Note hard bop. And the title track, with its wah-wah trumpet, is an up-tempo piece of greasy soul-blues that would easily have fit into the Brecker Brothers of the mid-to-late '70s.

Through it all, Brown demonstrates a technical aptitude that is blended with a remarkably mature approach—as capable as he is of virtuoso displays, he is equally aware of the need for space; his solo on the closing ballad, "A Call For All Angels," is a richly subtle piece of lyrical improvisation on a composition that is clearly influenced by mid-'60s Herbie Hancock.

But through it all one can't help but feel like Brown is dabbling—a little bit from here, a little bit from there—rather than shaping a specific direction that says, "This is who I am." All players are the sum total of their influences and Brown, with a style that combines staggering technique with economy and melodicism, is clearly forging a playing voice that, in time, will no doubt become more distinctive and personal. But as important as it is to hone a unique approach, it is also critical to evolve a convincing musical context within which to portray it. Brown may not be quite there, but Hip to Bop certainly paints a picture of an emerging artist with all the raw ingredients; now all he needs to do is find the right way to blend them.

Track Listing: Rapture; It's a New Day; Mi Amor; Conceptions; Anazao; Hip to Bop; Look Ma No Hands; A Call for All Angels

Personnel: Maurice Brown (trumpet, wah-wah), Derek Douget (tenor saxophone), Doug Bickel (piano, B-3, wurly), John Stewart (bass), Adonis Rose (drums), Bill Summers (percussion on "It's a New Day")

Title: Hip to Bop | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Brown Records


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