Toronto guitarist-songwriter James Brown returns to recording after a hiatus of more than a decade on ‘Song Within the Story,’ out March 18 on NGP Records | News
RICHMOND, Calif., January 26, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Guitarist-Composer James Brown returns from a 13-year recording hiatus with the extraordinary “Song Within the Story”, scheduled for a March 18 released on NGP Records. Brown’s fourth album, and his first since 2009’s “Sevendaze,” finds him at the helm of his Torontobassist-based working trio clark johnson and drummer Antoine Michelle. Respected tenor saxophonist mike murley joins the band on three of the album’s 10 tracks, eight of which are original compositions that document Brown’s ongoing marriages of jazz and classical music, while two covers explore from Canada rich folk-rock heritage.
Brown is deeply immersed in jazz-classical fusion; he wrote his master’s thesis on the Third Stream movement (the early 1960s effort to merge the two genres) and last year premiered ‘The Mosley Street Suite’, a concert work in that style. “Song in History”, however, offers no hint of the bombast or seriousness often associated with classical music. It’s a thoroughly swinging affair, filled with inventive, often searing melodies and improvisations from Brown and the band.
“I’m so happy with how the trio has developed,” says the guitarist. “We regularly work in clubs like the Rex Jazz Bar in Toronto three or four years, and we’ve played a lot of stuff on that CD.”
Their hard work shows on unconventional tracks like the 7/4 groover “Alystair and I” and the daring “The Circle”, both of which they approach with apparent ease and aplomb. They do no less, however, on the bluesy “Igor” or the (outwardly) delicate “All Rivers Lead”. The latter is one of three showcases for guest player Murley, whose thoughtful yet unyielding solo offers a glimpse of the intensity that lies beneath the surface of the melody.
“Igor” is named after and inspired by the great composer Igor Stravinsky, a nod to Brown’s classic pursuits. The title track of the album contains echoes of Pat Metheny. But the influences exhibited throughout “Song Within the Story” are not a jazz-classical binomial. “Mbira Kids”, as its title suggests, directly evokes the musical traditions of South Africa (more specifically, that of from Zimbabwe Shona people). During this time, the trio interprets with passion ballads of Neil Young (“The Needle and the Damage”) and Joni Mitchell (“A Case of You”), perhaps the two most revered Canadian singer-songwriters of the rock era.
“I’m not afraid to get into folk or rock,” Brown says of his musical concept. “I like when there’s something a little more going on.” On “Song Within the Story” there’s a lot more going on, and it resonates through every note of the album.
James Brown was born in 1967 in Oakville, ON, and grew up in the town of Burlington. His maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather were Quebec musicians, and James followed in their footsteps at age 13 when he started taking guitar lessons. These lead a few years later to classical guitar studies at from Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music.
At first, its ambitions were to become “the next Segovia or John Williams“- but during his studies at the University of Toronto, he found a new pattern in Ed Bickert. Often hailed as from Canada best jazz guitarist, Bickert was local for Toronto; Brown began frequenting his appearances at area clubs, delighted with his tone.
While continuing her classic curriculum, Brown also began attending informal jam sessions, slowly recalibrating her creative trajectory. (He eventually did the same with his studies, focusing on by Gunther Schuller Third Stream music for his mastery.) In 1998, his immersion in jazz was deep enough to record his first album, “First Dance”, with the famous Toronto the musicians Ernie Tollar (saxophone), Andrew Down (bass) and John Obercian (drums).
Brown recorded two additional albums in 2002 (The Home Fields) and 2009 (Sevendaze), but slowed his approach in the 2010s as he and his wife Lisa, to whom “All Rivers Lead” is dedicated, raised the six children of their blended family. . But a few years ago, feeling ripe for a comeback, he created a threesome with clark johnson on bass and Antoine Michelle on drums, working steadily to shape the empathetic, tightly knit sound they demonstrate today.
Brown also remained committed to classical music and the possibilities of jazz as a contributor to that tradition. His 2021 chamber piece, “The Mosley Street Suite,” featured among its moves several tunes that also made their way onto “Song Within the Story.”
The James Brown Quartet will perform at the following venues, with additional dates to be announced: Sat. 3/26 La Salle Jazz, Waterloo, ON (8:00 & 9:30 p.m.); Thu 4/21 Paradise Theater, Toronto, ON (20:00).
Terri Hinte, Public Relations Terri Hinte, 510-234-8781, [email protected]
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