Norman Brown: Celebration

With a mellow, deceptively laid-back style, guitarist Norman Brown will give fans of the George Benson school a new reason for Celebration (Warner Bros. 9 4730-2; 53:04). Brown doodles briskly across the canvas on breezy tunes like “Breaking Out” and “Together at Last,” with its throwback-sweet atmosphere, and adds light Benson-like vocalese accompaniment to his lyrical licks on “Out’a Nowhere.” Brown’s distinguished guitar work even elevates the slow-groove “Rain” beyond lethargic, and smartly corners around the thick, dinging atmosphere of “Paradise.” Brown’s technique is showed off to its finest effect on “Stay Strong,” which finds the formidable guitarist breaking out of the light R&B box with a warm and inspirational “climbing” refrain, for a clutter-free, inspirational effect.