Alison Brown


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While Alison Brown has received credit for her banjo innovations, she's often been crowded out by hotshot picker Bela Fleck. That's unfortunate, because there's more than enough room for two pioneering banjo players, and besides, both players have different gifts to offer. First of all, the Alison Brown Quartet approaches acoustic jazz from a different, perhaps more traditional, standpoint than Fleck & the Flecktones. Brown's banjo vies with John R. Burr's piano for fancy lead work, while both are superbly backed by bassist Garry West and drummer Kendrick Freeman. While the band doesn't mind playing lighter pieces like "The Wonderful Sea Voyage" and "My Favorite Marsha," they can also kick out the bluegrass jams on a cut like "Late on Arrival." This makes the unit more muscular than the Flecktones. Burr's piano also adds lots of energy, whether bopping along on "Etouffee Brutus?" or laying down bluesy ragtime on "Shoot the Dog." West and Freeman's ability to conquer every style from good old mountain music to Brazilian rhythms assures that the band moves forward with one voice. The band also displays a healthy sense of humor on "Spiderman Theme," a tune that'll have the listener climbing the walls, while a more serious side takes over on "Without Anastasia," a piece resembling a Bach fugue. It would be remiss to not mention "Daytime TV" and "The Inspector," two pieces jumping with spontaneous energy and featuring some great guitar work by Brown. One may not be able to please all of the fans all of the time, but Replay should please most of Alison Brown's fans most of the time. The Alison Brown Quartet distinguish themselves from competitors by building a solid musical framework and taking flight from there.

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