Pete Brown


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Alto saxophonist Pete Brown has been showing up on Keynote and Savoy reissues for years, but seldom if ever has there been an entire package devoted to recordings made under his name. The Classics Chronological series has accomplished many impressive feats, but this disc deserves special attention. Brown brought excitement and sonic ballast to nearly every band he ever sat in with. His works with John Kirby and especially Frankie Newton are satisfying, but this CD contains the very heart of Brown's artistry. It opens with "Cannon Ball," a boogie-woogie from 1942 sung by Nora Lee King. This relatively rare Decca recording features Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Hamilton, and Sammy Price, the pianist with whom Brown would make outstanding music a bit further on down the road. Similarly rare and even more captivating are two extended jams recorded in Chicago in April of 1944. Brown's quartet on this date consisted of electrically amplified guitarist Jim Daddy Walker, bassist John Levy, and drummer Eddie Nicholson. "Jim's Idea" and "Pete's Idea" are groove exercises, vamping struts built on hot riffs. Brown's sax tone usually had an attractive bite to it. His facility was comparable to that of Earl Bostic, even bordering at times on the gritty intensity of Charlie Parker. Pete Brown was first and foremost a relentless straight-ahead jammer who made his most stunning moves in a series of Kansas City-style blues and boogie jams. The Savoy session of July 11, 1944, epitomizes this "Mr. Hyde" aspect of the saxophonist. Four Keynote sides recorded eight days later are just as lively. "That's My Weakness Now" is light years away from the Paul Whiteman/Bix Beiderbecke version (with silly vocal trio) recorded in June of 1928. Trumpeter Joe Thomas was a perfect accomplice on this date, and the rhythm section of Kenny Kersey, Milt Hinton, and J.C. Heard made this the most artistically accomplished band that Brown ever led. Beginning with the exciting "Boot Zoot," the remaining 11 tracks are all mid-'40s swing-to-bop jams with steady R&B overtones. Guitarists Herman Mitchell, Al Casey, and Bill Moore keep things sounding contemporary for the mid-'40s. "That's the Curfew" has a melodic line similar to Fats Waller's "Dry Bones." Brown actually sings on his own laid-back "Sunshine Blues," an offshoot of "Trouble in Mind" using that famous line "The sun's gonna shine in my back door someday."

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