Dec 11 2014
Drummer Otis Brown III‘s debut album The Thought of You is a classic Blue Note Records hard bop recording that goes to church regularly and has a hip nephew that can rattle off J Dilla beats on command. The influence of pianist Robert Glasper is felt throughout much of this session, and there are tracks that provide wonderful echoes of Glasper’s groundbreaking 2007 release, In My Element. But this is more than just the influence of one musician on a performance, and Brown III’s background in a variety of jazz settings (w/the likes of Joe Lovano, Somi, Oliver Lake and Esperanza Spalding) has given him a wide expanse from which to project. The shifting tides of sounds on this recording sound natural and effortless, and it’s why it can sound forward-thinking and new while simultaneously echoing the music of the past (both near and far).
The delirious pace of “The Thought of You, Pt.1” is matched by a seriously catchy groove and a tuneful trumpet solo from Keyon Harrold. “Stages of Thought” is another nice example of the old-school/new-school time traveling here with Ben Williams‘ bass casting a long shadow across the song, a reminder of how the instrument can possess a huge presence despite its relative subtlety in comparison to the modern beats and melodicism of Brown III and Glasper’s teamwork on drums and piano.
“The Two Become One (for Paula)” shows the group is just as comfortable at cruising speed. John Ellis‘s tenor sax shapes the melody into something of a delicate beauty, and later, his bass clarinet gives it some soul. Recorded samples from Brown’s wedding are slipped into the stream of the tune to great effect, enhancing the prevailing romanticism while also providing a small charge of electricity that sends sparks along the surface of the tune. It’s a tool Brown III utilizes occasionally on the album, but does so tastefully, and nothing that would be a fatal turn-off for the jazz purists.
Guest vocals from Bilal, Gretchen Parlato and Nikki Ross are smart and precise. They are woven cohesively into the ensemble play and never become an instance of “and now, here is a vocal track.” Sometimes it’s just small contributions, like Bilal’s moments on the first and third parts of “The Thought of You,” and sometimes it comes in the form of an inspired take on Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” with Gretchen Parlato’s moodily simmering inflections.
An exciting, auspicious debut album.
Your album personnel: Otis Brown III (drums), Robert Glasper (piano, Fender Rhodes), John Ellis (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Ben Williams (bass), Keyon Harrold (trumpet) and guests: Shedrick Mitchell (Hammond B3 organ), Nir Felder (guitar) and Gretchen Parlato, Nikki Ross, Bilal (vocals).
Available at: Amazon: CD/MP3/Vinyl
Some of this material was used originally in the weekly new jazz releases column I write for eMusic and Wondering Sound, so here’s some language protecting their rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz recordings…
“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,” reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2014 eMusic.com, Inc.
As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.