Keith Brown Trio – ‘African Ripples’
(Space Time Records. BG2150 CD review by Adam Sieff)
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I was very impressed with pianist Keith Brown’s playing on Charles Tolliver’s excellent Connect album released last year on Gearbox (reviewed HERE); he has also recently recorded with Jazzmeia Horn and saxophonist Gregory Tardy. African Ripples is his third album as a leader and was recorded in New York last November for Paris-based Space Time Records, with new bassist Dezron Douglas, and two drummers, Darrell Green on four tracks and Brown’s co-producer Terron ‘Tank’ Gully on eleven.
But this is more than just a piano trio album, there are a number of special guests contributing vocals, horns and percussion, making a quartet, quintet and sextet on half of the album. Brown’s concept is clear: ’the music of African Ripples‘, he says, ‘was composed and collected to convey my personal experiences through black music and how it has rippled out in so many different directions. My hope is that the listener will find enjoyment in the sounds, rhythm, harmonies and melodies familiar to them, and the ones that may be unfamiliar’.
The familiar is immediately illustrated by the opening track, African Ripples Epigraph, which takes Fats Waller’s jaunty 1934 melody through some radical new changes with words by performance artist Cyrus Aaron and features the trumpet and tenor saxophone of Russell Gunn and Anthony Ware. It’s a positive start and there are more references to this tune halfway through the album with and as a reprise at the end. A few tracks later there’s another nod to an earlier era with an uptempo instrumental take on the Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages ballad Just You Just Me that was first recorded by Ukulele Ike in 1929.
There’s an energy flow throughout the album enhanced by the excellent sequencing, Brown’s demanding compositions and arrangements contrast with passages of beauty and deep soul. The level of musicianship and interplay between the core trio is positively terrifying at times, and although the album is almost exclusively acoustic, Brown also adds Rhodes piano and some synth touches, notably on the beautiful Queen, a tribute to his wifefeaturing the voice of Camille Thurman.
One of my favourite moments is 512 Arkansas Street, a song about family gatherings that fills the room with a warm glow. It’s one of the three tracks featuring the horns of Gunn and Ware, who along with Brown play fine solos over an uplifting groove. There’s a delicate cover of the Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright composition Come Back as a Flower with a beautiful vocal by ‘The Girl with the Green Shoes’ Melanie Charles.
I also particularly enjoyed Brown’s deeply swinging piano and Darrell Green’s drums on African Ripples Part 2 andthe intensity (the playing and the tone) of Gully’s drums towards the end of the excellent NAFID. The album sound is excellent, recorded by Mike Marciano at Samurai Hotel Studios and mixed by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studios.
This is an album that you may need to spend some time with to fully appreciate, but as I’m discovering is well worth it.
Digital is available now, CD released in UK on 23 July
LINKS: Pre-order from Proper