Walter Brown

1945-1947

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Less than a week after Walter Brown began singing with Jay McShann's orchestra, the band traveled from Kansas City to a recording studio in Brown's hometown of Dallas, TX, where McShann and his rhythm section backed the singer on "Confessin' the Blues." It became one of the best-selling records of 1941 and would ultimately define Brown's entire career while inadvertently exerting a circumstantial influence upon the development of modern jazz. Here's how it all happened: In 1941 and 1942 Dave Kapp, owner of Decca Records, had convinced himself that Kansas City big band instrumentals wouldn't sell. He pressured McShann into recording lots of accessible blues numbers with vocals by Walter Brown or Al Hibbler. It was largely money from these popular recordings that enabled McShann to bring his band to New York in 1942, placing Charlie Parker at the center of the jazz scene and thereby accelerating the music's evolution. Meanwhile Walter Brown, addicted like Parker to alcohol, amphetamine, and narcotics, worked only intermittently with McShann during 1942-1943, and by 1944 was pursuing a career as a solo act. This compilation contains the first recordings he made under his own name, in New York City on December 19 and 20, 1945. They originally appeared on the Queen label, a subsidiary of King Records. Still banking on his initial success, the singer was billed as "Walter (Confessin' the Blues) Brown" and was backed by a 16-piece band led by pianist Archie "Skip" Hall. Brown's next (and last) session for Queen occurred in Cincinnati in July of 1946, with excellent support provided by an octet with a frontline of trumpet, trombone, and two tenor saxes. None of these records represent any earthshaking artistic innovations. That's not what Walter Brown was about. This was good-time music, fast becoming known as "rhythm and blues," meaning that it was based in blues and good for dancing. From a jazz head's perspective, the most exciting material in this package features the Tiny Grimes Sextet -- with John Hardee blowing tenor sax -- backing Walter Brown on four sides recorded in 1947 for Bob Thiele's tiny Signature label. "I'm Living for You" is in fact more of a jazz ballad, representing a rare departure from Brown's customary blues formula.

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