Independent NGP-002 (www.jamesbrown.ca)
He may not be “The Godfather of Soul” but this James Brown – “our” raised-in-Burlington-now-residing-in-Toronto James Brown – brings much soul, sophistication, style and serious skill to his latest CD. Currently teaching guitar and jazz improvisation at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, Brown has produced a vibrant and inventive CD of nine original compositions. Joining him on this splendid album are some of Canada’s finest: Quinsin Nachoff on tenor and soprano saxophone (see Geoff Chapman’s excellent review of his latest offering in last month’s WholeNote online at www.thewholenote.com); the always great Don Thompson on piano; in-demand bassist Jim Vivian; and the widely respected Anthony Michelli on drums. A stellar local line-up!
Brown is known for his lyrical tone, fluid, melodic lines and elegant writing and he doesn’t disappoint here. As well, his classical training is evident and it is not surprising to learn that he is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre. The classical influence is most apparent in Fugue, where he weaves a beautiful exchange of fugal voices between the guitar and saxophone, joined in a third voice by the bass. The playing (as well as the writing) is languid and expressive.
Oddly, I found the title track, spelled Sevendays, to be the least interesting, although still enjoyable. It is expansive and breezy, reminiscent, at times, of early Metheny.
Perhaps Brown is at his most soulful in Central Eastern (part 1), an evocative, melancholic and lyrical preamble to Central Eastern (part 2), which, in contrast, is driving, exhilarating and had me at the edge of my seat. It really swings with its subtle, not so much central but more Middle Eastern, flavour. Thompson provides some gorgeous piano work and the drumming is especially tasteful.
There’s a reason Brown has the reputation he does as a versatile and talented composer and guitarist. Actually, he’s given us nine with “Sevendaze.