Donald Brown is pianist and composer, a skill perhaps even more vivid than his considerable keyboard chops, just in case you haven’t heard of him. And that’s no sin, considering the limitations of his performance schedule juggled with his duties as jazz educator in Memphis. Brown boasts a Jazz Messengers pedigree—he joined Blakey in the ’80s on the recommendation of homeboy and #1 booster James Williams—and had another notable experience as part of Williams’ four-piano homage to Phineas Newborn. Otherwise Brown he’s not widely known.
Brown can certainly play, and his writing always bears the gift of rich harmonies and strong melodies, both qualities in bold relief on such Wurd gems as “Easley Said and Done.” You’ll find these qualities in abundance on Wurd, as he navigates the crew of trumpeter Bill Mobley, saxmen Manny Boyd and Sam Newsome, bassist Essiet Essiet, drummer Billy Drummond and percussionist Daniel Sadownick through the warm waters of nine originals and the title track, on loan from his brother Ramone. The music succeeds because it is rendered with a cohesive and bright sense of service to the music of this considerable composer.