Multitalented bassist/bandleader John Brown takes listeners on a peaceful journey to where he hopes ”to move people to stand still; to stop to find private space to experience quiet time both alone and with someone.”
On his earlier critically acclaimed outings, Terms Of Art and Dancing With The Duke, Brown explored two of jazz’s most popular repertoires; digging deep into the soulful sounds of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on the former and mining gems from the sophisticated songbook of the maestro Duke Ellington on the latter. Now on Quiet Time, the North Carolina bass man shows off his encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz canon, presenting a thoughtful program that ranges from brand new originals and little known jazz masterpieces to pop(ular) radio hits and classics culled from the Great American Songbook.
Drawing on his extensive experience performing with everbody from Elvin Jones to Nnenna Freelon, Brown has put together a stirring selection of music, which while focused on the theme of quietude is nonetheless multifaceted, traversing a dynamic range of emotions that is never lacking in interest or intensity. Leading his North Carolinian working quintet featuring the commanding multigenerational front line of veteran trumpeter/flugelhornist Ray Codrington and young alto/tenor saxophonist Brian Miller, along with swinging rhythm section mates, pianist Gabe Evens and drummer Adonis Rose, Brown provides the solid foundation that keeps the music grooving throughout. The unit, which debuted on Brown’s Terms Of Art, returns tighter than ever, once again in the words of Jazz Times’ Bill Milkowski, “solidly swinging and full of deep feeling from start to finish.”
The band gets right to the heart and soul of the album’s with the opener Come Live With Me. Miller’s soulful sax states the melody of the Ray Charles super hit with a slow and easy sound that recalls the late great sax man Hank Crawford, as he’s accompanied by Evens’ sanctified church piano chords. Brown’s long low bass notes are as mellow as a lazy Sunday afternoon and Rose’s beat is as emphatic as it is unobtrusive. Codrington’s short sweet solo displays his a truly original sound on trumpet, his clear speech like articulation evincing the hymnal beauty of a choir soloist before Miller’s wailing cries recapitulate the popular melody and Evens ends the proceedings with a rubato coda.
Codrington’s mellifluous flugelhorn opens Brown’s beautiful title track, Quiet Times – his broad pure tone lyrically announcing the melancholy mood of the romantic tome. Miller, attaching himself to the final notes of his frontline mate’s solo, reinforces the tender feeling, first with his own passionate solo and then in enchanting harmony. Even’s is pensive in his improvisation, his unhurried pace buoyed by Brown’s even pulse and Rose’s delicate brushwork, before the two horns return to take things out in tandem, conjuring the image of lover’s in a blissful embrace.
The mood changes on Dr. Lonnie Smith’s … and the Willow Weeps. Previously recorded under the title of As The World Weeps, by the organist composer on his Rise Up disc and Dr. Michael White on Adventures In New Orleans Jazz, Part Two, Brown and company take this Crescent City funeral march at a measured deliberate pace, with Rose digging down deep into his hometown roots to direct the music’s solemn tempo. Miller switches to tenor, his big brooding sound complemented by Codrington’s flugelhorn on the mournful dirge.
When Summer Comes, penned by Oscar Peterson as part of his ten song Royal Wedding Suite commemorating the nuptials of Great Britain’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana, is one of the late great Canadian pianist’s most moving masterpieces. Codrington stays with his flugelhorn to open the proceeding, once again his pure tone, consistent throughout his full range, brings out the beauty of the song’s lyrical melody. Miller, again on tenor, takes his time to sing out his song of praise with the patience and power. Stepping into the spotlight briefly, Brown shows himself to be a capable soloist, with lyrical phrasing and a singing tone.
Codrington switches to muted trumpet to accentuate the exotic flavor of Elvin Jones’ A Lullaby of Itsugo Village, a song Brown first encountered as a member of the iconic drum master’s Jazz Machine band. Based on a Japanese folk song, the pretty waltz is a shining example of Brown’s wise observation, “It is in the moments when we allow ourselves to sit still and hear quiet that we find our inner voices, our inner passion, our inner strength, our inner selves.” Here on this meditative melody each of the band members reaches deep into their souls to show their individual selves, as they come together to combine their personal sounds in a quiet intensity.
The inclusion of You Don’t Know What Love Is in the program is more than fitting. One of the most recorded compositions in the Great American Songbook, the Don Raye/Gene de Paul classic epitomizes the themes of romance and loneliness that often fills one’s “quiet time.” A feature for tenor and bass, Brown stretches out on this one, displaying the virtuoso technique that allows him the wide range of expression that makes this date so successful.
When October Goes, the posthumous pairing of Johnny Mercer’s lyric with a Barry Manilow melody, was first heard on the pop idol’s jazzy 2:00 AM Paradise Café album, featuring the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Mays, Mundell Lowe, George Duvivier and Shelley Manne. Since its initial recording it has found it way into the standard jazz repertory with vocal versions by Nancy Wilson, Rosemary Clooney and Dianne Schurr. This rendition spotlights instrumental ballad talents of Codrington and Miller.
Gerald Wilson’s Theme For Monterey, from the NEA Jazz Master’s same titled suite, commissioned to premiere at the 1997 edition of the venerable California jazz festival, was orchestrated by the great arranger/composer to be heard in a variety moods, from a ballad to a shout. Here the quintet reprises the first movement of the work, aptly subtitled Romance.
Lost is written by pianist Gabe Evens, whose fine work as talented young composer has been previously documented on his own albums, Connection and Mobius. The poignant piece features both the composer’s piano and Miler’s alto.
The date concludes appropriately with James Taylor’s plaintive plea Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight. Even’s opens with gospel tinged chords and Miller takes his time reciting the melody on his horn as the rhythm section sets an unhurried tempo that lets every note of the familiar song ring out with touching nearness.
In creating Quite Time John Brown has given music lovers a precious gift that can be equally enjoyed in solitude or the company of a dear one. As he wisely says, “Enjoying quiet time and sharing what we find in these intimate moments with someone special is an added pleasure.” One that he sincerely hopes people will enjoy “over and over.”