Saxophonist Michael Brown has been one of Indy"s best-kept secrets on the national jazz and R&B music scene for a number of years. Now, that has all changed with the release of his new CD, Something Nice, on the internationally-known British label Revolver Music. Brown has paid his musical dues in bands such as Wilson Pickett, The Spinners, Norman Connors, George Benson, Eddie Henderson and Jimmy McGriff.
Brown, who is technically fluent on multiple winds from saxophone to clarinet and flute, studied at Butler University"s Jordan College of Fine Arts. With his formal education in theory, harmony and arrangements, he has composed over 100 songs from traditional jazz - where he notes Charlie Parker to John Coltrane as influences - to today"s fusion pop compositions. He is primarily known locally for his high-energy, straight-ahead swinging sound on tenor sax. But his work is musically multifaceted and grooves with the best in the R&B and smooth jazz genre. His latest CD showcases him in that setting. Things are a little hectic for Brown right now as he is preparing for his CD release party, but he stopped long enough for an interview. NUVO: With this new CD are you putting aside your purist jazz chops and concentrating on what is now smooth jazz or pop instrumental? BROWN: I am going to do it all. I am going to have my straight-ahead band with Eddie Henderson and then we are also going to concentrate on making this record a hit record. NUVO: Is it not a fact that that straight-ahead jazz groups seem to work more jazz festivals than the smooth jazz groups, or is it vice versa? BROWN: What I have seen from my point of view, it seems that the straight-ahead jazz market is mainly in Europe. It is a mixture in Europe: It"s not just festivals, it"s club dates and the whole gamut. With pop jazz, it"s more geared to the United States, though it does have a worldwide market. From my viewpoint you have a mixture of things to do for pop jazz in this country. NUVO: You are playing more soprano sax today. Is that because it"s a more popular sound in the contemporary or smooth jazz format? BROWN: You know, what made me fall in love with the soprano is John Coltrane and I have always had a love for soprano. I just don"t get a chance play it as much here in Indy as I do out on the road. NUVO: Is it easier for you as a composer/instrumentalist to write in the straight-ahead format or smooth jazz format? BROWN: They are both not a problem. What I try to do when I am composing, I feel like jazz, R&B and gospel all come from the African-American experience. What I try to do, no matter what it is, I take it from my experience. I sit down and turn the lights off and I think about what I am trying to write. I don"t think about the genre; its almost an inspirational relationship based on my life"s experiences. Michael Brown has been the sideman for numerous top stars in touring and recording, and now he has his moment with Something Nice. With artist such as Roy Ayres, Norman Connors, Norman Brown, Marion Meadows and singer Afrika, along with tunes as diverse as War"s "Cisco Kid" to Herbie Hancock"s "Butterfly" and three originals from Brown"s pen, this CD is a winner. There will be a CD release party with guest Norman Connors, downtown at the Cozy, 20 N. Pennsylvania St., Sunday, Sept. 1. Two shows are scheduled at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. and the ticket price at the door is $15. Mr. Brown is back in town and you really should check out Something Nice. Jazz happenings Summer"s practically gone but there is still plenty of good jazz to be experienced for your enjoyment this week in and around Indy. The Jazz Kitchen will groove heavily Friday, Aug. 30, with the acid jazz sounds of 7 Pleasures. Then, a special night of music happens Saturday, Aug. 31, when a tribute is paid to Bluenote Records landmark artists Grant Green, John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell with a special group assembled by guitarist Bill Lancton and featuring tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon. There will be two sets at 8 and 10 p.m. The Chatterbox features Bill Lancton & Coalition, featuring Alan "Turk" Burke on keyboards and vocals, Friday, Aug. 30. Tim Brickley"s Quintet returns Saturday, Aug. 31, with jazz and pop vocals. Sets both nights go from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a cover charge. The Adam"s Mark Hotel Downtown has Frank Puzzullo"s Trio playing in the Tiffany Rose Lounge, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The Hyatt Regency features jazz and pop vocalist Cynthia Layne and keyboardist Reggie Bishop, playing at its Sunday Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bernice"s Midtown Dining, 14th and Pennsylvania, showcases the smooth jazz of Sansing and vocals by Stevi every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for diners. Sullivan"s at Keystone at the Crossing presents the sophisticated jazz of Claude Sifferlen, piano, Joe Deal, bass, and Jeff Devine, drums, Friday, Aug. 30 and Saturday, Aug. 31, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Chuck Workman is the producer/ host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.