Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Paul Brown has an approach that is always innovative, different and fresh. His prowess as a producer is unrivalled and the extension of his talents to that of solo performer has been seamless. His debut album, the 2004 Up Front proved to be an instant radio favourite and his follow up, The City, did just as well. Not only that, as an artist, it demonstrated his growing maturity. This increased self assurance, which capitalized on the skill he has in exploring new areas for sounds previously unheard in contemporary jazz, spilled out into the creation of what fast became his own distinctive sound. It made the statement that it was suddenly OK to blend smooth jazz with guitar driven rock and he has built on this platform for his latest project. In doing so he has further refined that special ‘Paul Brown sound’ into a delicious blend that lays somewhere between rock, smooth jazz and chill. The result, White Sand, hits record stores across the USA on February 27.
In fact, by bringing together artists that Brown has worked with over the years he has, for the most part, created a duets album. However, despite the awesome contribution made by each of these guest performers, the unique nature of the sound that Brown has created labels White Sand as very much all his own work. A case in point is ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’. Made popular by Cannonball Adderley, and covered by everyone, Brown’s inspired use of Bobby Caldwell on vocals, his own bluesy guitar and a big sounding horn section makes this feel brand new. He does it again with ‘For What’s Its Worth’ where he is joined by Jeff Caruthers on keys. This Stephen Stills composition was a hit for Buffalo Springfield back in 1967 and here, deconstructed into a chunk of chilled out rock; Brown’s own vocals fit the mood perfectly. Brown calls on up-coming female sax star Jessy J for the mellow and atmospheric title track. Her playing intertwines delightfully with his own picture perfect guitar and another top notch guitar sax duet comes in the form of ‘Ol’ Skoolin’. This time Brown’s collaborator is none other than Boney James and the empathy that so clearly pulses between them adds to the ultra tight feel of this foot tapping track.
‘R n B Bump’ is co-written by Brown, Bobby English and Johnny Brit. It starts out with Latin tinged piano from David Benoit and, in sync with its title, rapidly moves to a more earthy place. This, in no small part, is due to the sax of English and sumptuous horns from Brit’s own band, the excellent Impromp2. Brown’s writing partners for the cool and jazzy ‘Makes Me Feel So Good’ are Gerald McCauley, Joe Wolf and Al Jarreau. Each impact the recording in their own special way with keyboardist, composer and producer McCauley singing backing vocals and sharing keys with Wolf while the ultra distinctive voice of Jarreau adds all the star quality anyone could ever need.
The albums third and final cover, ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ is hugely different but no less special. The vocals of Hidden Beach recording artist Lina gives this Dionne Warwick classic a shimmering quality and sets it up as a radio hit of the future. Of course, having been released as the advance single, ‘The Rhythm Method’ is already on radio and is now tearing up the chart of thirty most played. With Jeff Caruthers contributing hugely on both strings and moog this sparse edgy piece has a chill factor that is off the scale. Its clearly one of the standout tracks of the entire collection and another personal favourite is the cleverly titled ‘More or Les Paul’. Browns cool guitar is again firmly in chill territory, his production weaves that special PB magic and Euge Groove on sax tops it off flawlessly with the melodic groovy chorus.
The onomatopoeic ‘Mr Cool’ could be the signature track of the whole CD. With production from Brown that is right in the pocket, and restrained trumpet from Rick Braun, its tranquil yet compelling vibe is a comforting constant. It reinforces the fact that with White Sand Paul Brown has created what will undoubtedly be one of the standout albums of 2007.Posted by Denis Poole at February 26, 2007 2:28 PM