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May 2007

Paul Brown & Friends
White Sand
Peak Records

Famed smooth-jazz producer Paul Brown seems to have it going on with solo CDs. White Sand is another seriously confident turn that should make other guitarists in the genre nervous. Norman Brown and Larry Carlton are better guitar players, but Brown’s masterful at pushing buttons on the control boards, creating catchy moods and calling on well-known smooth-jazz talent to add their distinctive soloing.

On this, his first CD for Peak and third overall, Brown continues to explore bluesy jams, vocal tunes and ballads. The title tune, with its dreamy, late-night vibe, is spiced up by the jazz sensibilities of saxophonist Jessy J. Another standout slow-burner, “More or Les Paul,” is a tribute to the jazz-guitar legend with gutsy sax lines by Euge Groove. Possible hit singles that invade your brain include the herky-jerky ride of “Rhythm Method”; the bluesy romp of “R ’n’ B Bump” with horns by Impromp2 and a piano solo by David Benoit; and the tasty “Ol’ Skoolin’,” which may be the best of the bunch and has the unmistakable sax lines of longtime bud Boney James.

Brown recruited two legendary vocalists for two memorable songs. Al Jarreau, whose hipness is almost patented at this point, wrote the lyrics to “Makes Me Feel So Good.” And Bobby Caldwell busts major blues chops on Joe Zawinul’s classic “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a standard that’s most familiar as an instrumental; it’s refreshing to hear the oft-forgotten sexy lyrics over a hand-clappin’, good-time Ramsey Lewis vibe. On another cover, the Bacharach-David “I Say a Little Prayer,” Brown introduces us to the cool and sexy vocals of Lina.

This CD comes highly recommended, especially for those taken by guitar-based smooth-jazz. But it’s simply a fantastic contemporary jazz CD, period.

Originally published in May 2007
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