Josh Brown: Songbook Trio

Geannine Reid By

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Josh Brown: Josh Brown: Songbook Trio Trombonist Josh Brown was raised in Burlington, Ontario. His mother was a music teacher and his father was an avid jazz fan. It is no surprise that Brown grew up playing in school and city bands, eventually winning local and national competitions and eventually attended Humber College in Toronto, where he studied music. Brown also went on to attend the prestigious Banff School of Fine Arts, and Thelonious Monk Jazz Aspen Snowmass. Making the move to New York in the early 2000's, Brown quickly began establishing himself as an up and coming jazz trombonist and cutting his teeth on the local scene at night.

Aside from his work as a leader, notable credits vary far and wide, from small group work with renowned jazzmen Grant Stewart, Frank Basile, and Ehud Asherie, to large groups such as Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, the Smalls Big Band, as well as living legends, which included a recent guest appearance with Freddy Cole on his latest album This and That. Brown has also toured internationally and relentlessly for close to a decade as a member of Warner artist Michael Buble's band. Numerous TV credits include Saturday Night Live, BET on Jazz, PBS Great Performances, The Late Show with Jay Leno, The Tonight Show with David Letterman, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Live with Kelly and Michael. Brown is a Conn-Selmer Artist, a two-time recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts Grant, and was a semi-finalist in the 2003 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trombone competition.

Playing with a beautiful expressive sound, effortless sense of swing, and refined improvisational skills, trombonist Josh Brown is joined by guitarist Randy Napoleon and bassist Neal Miner on a unique journey that is altogether intimate, joyous, and fresh through the Great American Songbook. Brown's new CD, Songbook Trio, was assembled as a collection of songs that "I not only love personally, but that would allow listeners to revisit a golden age of popular music in a fresh new light—one that was thrilling, yet full of intimacy and subtlety. The challenge was to take these already familiar songs and ride the fine line of creating arrangements that, for people who know the music, the recognition would still be there, yet there would also be moments of surprise and excitement that do not take away from the pleasure of the songs as a whole. And for those who might not be acquainted with these pieces, the melody would still be transparent rather than hidden within arrangements that are too abstract."

The album is presented in a trio format with guitarist Randy Napoleon and bassist Neal Miner. The small drummerless trio lends itself to an intimately interactive dynamic and a musical flexibility among the musicians. Brown explains, "Our goal was to tailor these arrangements in such a way that would showcase the rhythmic strength and interplay the three of us have. Fortunately as a trio we were able to accomplish that without the need for a drummer to help propel the energy. One tool we employed frequently was an effect used commonly by classical chamber musicians...passing the role of leader amongst ourselves. For instance, I would be playing the melody, then it would switch to Randy or Neal, creating not only more interest by breaking things up, but also by changing the roles that are sometimes inherent in horn-led trios."

A highlight is Napoleon's arrangement of "I've Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good)," fresh and vibrant arrangements of this well-known tune finds Browns round trombone sound conveying a very enjoyable and musical sense of swing. Brown and Napoleon play a fine tutti section and Miner keeps the flow in check and delivers a fine solo with Napoleon propelling the pulse with chunked chords. Another stand out is the original from Brown, "West Side Constitutional" which is a nice bouncing melody that the trio explores in a very musical fashion. A nice version of the bop era tune by Buddy Montgomery entitled "Bock to Bock" is given a fresh treatment and is another enjoyable mid-tempo selection conveyed by the trio.

This is a very enjoyable date with three creative and swinging musicians that is very appropriate for mood music in an intimate setting.

Track Listing: Westside Constitutional; On The Street Where You Live; Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered; Bock to Bock; Old Devil Moon; Blues For Big Three; I’ll See You in My Dreams; I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face.

Personnel: Josh Brown: trombone; Randy Napoleon: guitar, Neal Miner: bass.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Gut String Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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