Norman Brown won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album for Just Chillin', his fifth CD, but he says that his fans tell him their favorite recording of his was After the Storm, his second collection from 1994, and critics tend to agree. On Stay with Me, his seventh album and first for Peak Records after three each for MoJazz and Warner Bros., he returns, to an extent, to his earlier approach, which is to say there is a bit less of the overt crossover style of the Warner albums, as if he is aiming less at the "pop instrumental" prize and more at the "contemporary jazz" one. Still, there are radio-friendly vocals on many of these tracks (with Nikkole singing on "You Keep Lifting Me Higher" and Brown himself on "So in Love," the Brian McKnight-penned title track, "Every Little Thing," and "I Need You"), and the grooves remain constant. In fact, by looking back to his only slightly different earlier style, Brown has made an album that sounds more like the '80s than the 2000s. What stays intact, of course, is his fluid guitar playing, which is notable both for its rhythmic complexity and for the articulation he gets into his often quickly played notes. In that sense, the tunes and the arrangements are really incidental, although they may be more acceptable to old fans and those looking for a slightly higher jazz content.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann