If anyone was in any doubt that the decidedly Benson-esque Norman Brown is one of the finest contemporary jazz guitarists around today then look no further than his highly anticipated new recording ‘Let It Go’. It is Brown’s tenth solo outing and one for which he has surrounded himself with some of the brightest stars in the smooth jazz galaxy.
The album opens in exactly the way that fans of the genre would expect a Norman Brown project to start, with the hauntingly smooth ‘Lessons Of The Spirit’. Not only that, the way producer (and keyboard player) Tracy Carter expertly segues this cool cut with the similarly inclined ‘It Keeps Coming Back’ is nothing short of a masterstroke.
Another mellow groove comes courtesy of the title track, which is totally indicative of Brown’s hallmark style and elsewhere, when he teams with the always-excellent Chante Moore for the sultry ‘Holding You’; he combines sophisticated guitar work with his own, considerable vocal prowess.
A further guest performance of note comes from sax-man Marion Meadows with the high stepping ‘The North Star’ and although ‘Let It Go’ is substantially a work of original material, Brown does find space for several well chosen covers. In this respect there is none better than a reworking of the Five Stairsteps 1970 hit ‘Ooh Child’ that is embellished by the sweet soul vocals of Tracy Carter and bass-man Nathaniel Kearny Jr. This high-class crossover number looks all set to do well at both R & B and smooth jazz radio while just as good is Brown’s sublimely turned down version of the Michael Jackson smash ‘Man In The Middle’ for which he is joined by none other than Sounds Of Blackness.
Father of six Brown opts to make ‘Let It Go’ something of a family affair by enlisting the help of three of his daughters, aka S.O.U.L., firstly for the sensual vibe of ‘Conversations’ and then again with the up-tempo feel good ‘Living Out Your Destiny’ that is an absolute joy.
Of course Brown, together with Rick Braun and Kirk Whalum, is also part of the musical family better known as BWB. Here his buddies rally round to lend a hand with the intensely high tempo ‘Liberated’ and although Brown uses ‘Very Woman’ to turn down the tempo to sensational effect it is it when Whalum returns to add his unmistakable sax sound to the expansive yet groove drenched ‘Remember Who’ that musical magic really begins to happen.
‘Let It Go’ is out April 14 on the Shanachie Entertainment label and comes highly recommended.