As smooth-jazz's preeminent producer, Paul Brown has helmed hit albums by Boney James, Rick Braun, George Benson, Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Larry Carlton and many other top artists. He clearly understands what it takes to craft an appealing recording, so it's surprising that his own album, Up Front (GRP), is a lackluster outing.
On "Wes' Coast Swing," Brown scats along with his guitar a la Benson, but he never puts an individual stamp on either the composition or the performance, and laid-back tracks like "Phat City" and "Chill Out" favor atmosphere over melody and end up sounding like background music. The otherworldly, processed vocals on "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" add a strangely distancing element, and while Brown and White duet effectively on "My Funny Valentine," the track is saddled with a distractingly unvarying rhythm. There are some high points, however: Chuck Loeb's acoustic guitar plays against Brown's electric guitar on "Moment By Moment," and Braun adds a spark to "24/7." But more is expected from an artist at Brown's level of accomplishment, and he doesn't deliver.