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James Brown

(5.3.33 – 12.25.06)

James Brown and Christian McBride

For close to half a century, James Brown represented that rare type of artist whose music created an impenetrable force around the listener. When you listened to James Brown, you felt strong, bold, almost immortal. From personal experience, I can tell you that being around James Brown was the equivalent of trying to walk on the sun. He was that powerful. He demanded to be called “Mr. Brown.” Why not? But he was quick to call everyone else “Mister” as well. With Mr. Brown-as well as all men and women from his generation-you had to earn respect. You just didn’t wake up one day and decide you should be respected.

I was first awarded an opportunity to earn Mr. Brown’s respect in 1995. Verve Records had just released my first CD, Gettin’ to It, whose title track, of course, was inspired by James Brown’s hit, “Get It Together.” In fact, I was very scared that James Brown might actually try to sue me when he heard it, because it was awfully close to “Get It Together.” However, when he heard it, he was more appreciative than anything else. He was actually somewhat surprised that so many jazz musicians enjoyed his music. Guess what, Mr. Brown? All jazz musicians enjoy your music-at least the ones who like rhythm!

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Originally Published