A fresh and exciting new jazz breeze blew into town with the performance of Chris Brown, son of drummer Mel Brown, as they performed together and apart last week at Jimmy Mak's.
Chris Brown opened the first of two sets on drums playing some tunes in a 7/4 time. His band mates included pianist Greg Goebel, tenor saxophonist Tim Wilcox and trumpeter Paul Mazzio. The younger Brown brought several of his own sophisticated jazz compositions, which he wrote while a student at Rutgers University.
The second set featured the father, Mel, on drums while Chris picked up the alto saxophone. They played some of the younger Brown's tunes along with those of Wynton and Delfeayo Marsalis. Chris Brown and the Marsalis family of musicians have been friends for many years.
The capacity crowd sat transfixed as it was treated to a brand of jazz seldom heard in the city. The music was demanding and when Chris Brown told the audience that the band had had only two hours of rehearsal, the crowd sat stunned and disbelieving.
Chris announced each tune before playing it — something I wish his dad would do after his lengthy nonstop sets on Tuesday nights.
It was a joyous occasion to hear the immense and diverse talents of Chris Brown, particularly while on the stage with his rightfully proud father. Young Brown is now the regular drummer for the Roy Hargrove band.
It was also my first hearing of Tim Wilcox. He is one of the two or three top tenors in town, right up with the seldom-heard but never-forgotten Michael York.
DIZZY GILLESPIE ALL STAR BAND
Eighteen superior jazz musicians, counting special guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove, memorialize Dizzy Gillespie with this excellent big band release.
The title tune, "Dizzy's Business," leads it off and features solos by trumpeter Randy Brecker and alto saxophonist Antonio Hart. The hard swinging of that selection precedes the calm approach to "Con Alma," written by Gillespie and featuring a heartfelt solo by trumpeter Claudio Roditi. Trombonist Slide Hampton, saxophonist James Moody and Hart all contribute excellent solos.
Vocalist Roberta Gambrini takes the lead on "Moody's Groove," a tune written by Jimmy Heath with band members joining in on the vocal. This is excellent big band music, no doubt about that. However, to me it fails to evoke Gillespie, his music, his personality or his legacy. But in the world of today, it's five stars.
Singer Olivia Warfield ranks high on the list of Portland treasures, among its sweet-smelling roses, downtown fountains, pure water, urban forests and all that is good about this mid-size city.
She works her sultry, sexy, honey-sweet tones as if delivered by a gentle hot breeze. No shouting, at least until the very end, but certainly no in-your-face crassness from her. Her lyrics are clear, understandable, original and drenched in her own soulful sauce.
Part of her mastery comes in the way she blends rhythm and blues with neo-soul and hip hop, which few vocalists can handle. There is a similarity in delivery with that of Sade, but "Liv's" singing has more body, a fullness that evades Sade.
On "Work for Me," she outlines her life's values of acknowledging God, living the right way, self respect and other right-on priorities. Guitarist Jay Koder gets in a fine solo over some inventive Dave Owens drumming.
Her emotions boil over on "Brotha Man," a live recording where she proclaims her love for the man in her life as she sings, shouts and talks her passion. Clearly, Olivia Warfield sets a mark for others to shoot for, including some well-known national acts.
Her CD release party is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9, at Jimmy Mak's.