Cleo Brown

Living in the Afterglow

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Cleo Brown was a singing boogie-woogie pianist active from the 1930s into the 1950s who was one of Dave Brubeck's early influences. She retired from music and she stuck to playing exclusively for her church in Denver as the jazz world lost track of her -- until Marian McPartland sought Brown for an appearance on her Piano Jazz series in the 1980s. This studio session followed the taping of the program, with McPartland as a guest on several tracks. Many of the numbers are original gospel compositions by Brown, some sung in a very friendly manner, such as her "I'm a Little Old Woman," the charming "Afterglow," and the very bluesy "I've Been 'Buked and Scorned." Brown's chops show no signs of slipping as she plays wonderful two-fisted piano on standards such as "Without a Song," and her stimulating duets with McPartland include the spiritual "Down by the Riverside," the surprising choice of "Silent Night," "Marian's Mood" (possibly worked out on the spot in the studio by the pianists), and the old hymn "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." Sadly, this was Cleo Brown's final recording prior to her death in 1995.

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