Browns fourth album and Warner Bros. Jazz debut, lives up to its name, delightfully
expanding the boundaries of an already wide-ranging talent, encompassing R&B, jazz,
pop, funk, Afro-Caribbean and Latin flavorings, and featuring the artist as both
instrumentalist and vocalist.
Norman Browns atmospheric guitar stylings have won him
ardent admirers, an enduring presence on jazz charts and a bounty of industry awards. His
first album sold an impressive 150,000 and his follow-up album, After The Storm, was named
Jazz Album Of The Year by both Gavin and Soul Train, remaining on the charts for over two
years, edging its way towards gold. Release number three, Better Days Ahead, garnered him
a 1997 American Jazz Award for contemporary guitar, and the albums title track and
first single was the most-added in NAC history up to that point.
Celebration continues Browns penchant for writing and
recording music that is highly rhythmic, melodically ascendant and always delivers a
laidback lift. Norman Brown produced four of Celebrations ten tracks: the jubilant
title song which serves as the perfect vehicle to showcase his amazing artistry, the
harmonically rich "Breaking Out," plus the vocally infused "Its Time
For Love" and "Getting By." Oji Pierce (Coolio, Montel Jordan) did
the honors on The Stylistics 1974 hit and romantic classic "You Make Me Feel Brand
New," an ensemble piece featuring vocals by Norman and labelmates Kena, Nakia and
Karen of Phajja. Noted producer Paul Brown oversaw the balance of Celebrations
tracks, including a cover of SWVs "Rain"; "Paradise," with guest
artist Rick Braun on muted trumpet; "Together," a sequel to Browns
previous release "Lets Come Together" from his second album After The
Storm; the infectious "Outa Nowhere" and "Never Again," the
latter showcasing Normans expressive vocalizing.
Brown is as much known for his powerful live performance and
party-vibe onstage as he is for his tasty chart-topping releases. His name is mentioned in
the same sentence with master guitarists Wes Montgomery and George Benson and reviewers
shower him with adjectives like "ultra-funky," "smooth,"
"agile," "hot," "exciting" and "exceptionally
gifted." Brian Soergel of The Press Enterprise described the artists music,
saying, "The sinewy, sliding melodic lines wrap themselves around steady percussion.
Up-tempo grooves and smoldering love songs. Occasional wordless vocals float over the
intoxicating brew. Its a sound as smooth as thick taffy wrapped around a
stick." Bill Kohlhaase, in a special to the L.A. Times, wrote of a typical Norman
Brown set, "Not only did Browns solos spit and steam, they told a story,
carrying a lyricism that belied the frenzy of his presentation. Even the most accessible
and direct material, such as Browns After The Storm, reverberated with
strength and string-picked excitement as he moved into improvisational mode."
His impact on audiences and critics reflect a lifelong passion
for his instrument. Norman hasnt been far from a guitar since he was eight years
old, when the Kansas City native fell in love with his brothers acoustic 6-string.
His brother, recognizing Normans authentic interest, handed over the instrument to
him and took up the drums. Steeped in the music of Jimi Hendrix, The Isley Brothers and
Kool and the Gang, Browns direction took a turn when he heard guitar player Wes
Montgomery for the first time and experienced an immediate connection with his music.
Browns father was also a Montgomery fan and would challenge him [Norman] to learn
Wess songs by holding out the promise of a car for the night and other such rewards.
Norman observes, "It actually motivated me enough to really go ahead and learn how to
play the style that I had fallen in love with. Thats how I got started on my musical
journey. From there I played with local bands, doing material by Earth, Wind And Fire and
other R&B acts, ultimately ending up in a quartet, playing a lot of contemporary jazz
tunes, along with some standards."
In the mid-80s, Brown relocated to Los Angeles to study
music formally at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. After graduating, he became
an instructor on staff at the institute and hooked up with the short-lived MoJAZZ label,
recording three enormously successful and critically-acclaimed solo albums, before
segueing to his current association with Warner Bros. Records Jazz.
With his Warner debut, Brown is celebrating. "Im very
happy. I feel appreciated. I feel like they believe in what Im doing and that there
are no limits here
and thats very comforting." That feeling spills over
into the music of Celebration. "Ive tried to give my fans what they would
expect, which is great guitar playing, energetic music
and just real legitimate
material. I also try to give them something else, something indefinable. Between Matt
Pierson (Warner Jazz, Senior Vice President) and myself, we thought, with this lineup,
wed be offering listeners the most!"
Celebration is replete with the most. The title song
delivers the most energy, motion, emotion and festival fun, while Normans R&B
offering "You Make Me Feel Brand New," really is brand new as Norman duets with
Phajja for the most sultry and playful romance. His compositions "Outa
Nowhere," and "Paradise" vie for the most melodic, while "Breaking
Out" with Norman scatting in unison to his own guitar licks and brilliantly
performing single-note, chordal and octave runs is the most reflective of Browns
He comments, "Breaking Out is a song that I
wrote many years ago, and it didnt make any of my CDs and I really thought it should
have. This time around, Warner Bros. agreed. It was the opportune time to bring it out and
its kind of symbolic of me breaking out into a new flow."
With Celebration, Norman Brown definitely breaks out and up,
taking his fast, fluid digits and ear-friendly guitar to a new level. On his debut Warner
release, what he says of himself is made imminently clear. "You know, I just have a
deep appreciation and great love for music. Ive had it all my life and I know
Ill always continue to have it." His enthusiasm is contagious and gives those
who share his appreciation, reason to celebrate.
Call CJ DiRoma at 856-665-5513 for more information and availability