Lawrence Brown

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To Paul Robeson, pianist and arranger Lawrence Brown had the same relationship Baba Louie had to Quick Draw McGraw, or Bullwinkle to Rocky: the faithful sidekick -- or in the case of Robeson and Brown,…
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To Paul Robeson, pianist and arranger Lawrence Brown had the same relationship Baba Louie had to Quick Draw McGraw, or Bullwinkle to Rocky: the faithful sidekick -- or in the case of Robeson and Brown, the ever present and always on the mark accompanist at concerts that took the duo around the world and then back again. One very important date was in June 1926, when Robeson and Brown presented the first concert recital devoted entirely to black spiritual music in New York City. If the pianist and lifelong friend of the controversial Robeson is sometimes mistaken for trombonist Lawrence Brown, it is for once a case of musical serendipity. The worlds of gospel and jazz, always following a kind of parallel orbit, sometimes find themselves visited by such a coincidental interloper. Because of his vast interest in spiritual music, Ellington himself performed pieces by both of the men. The trombonist, like many of the bandleader's veteran sidemen, also occupied a similar kind of sidekick role. The gospel Brown should also not be confused with producer and songwriter Larry Brown, a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker at Motown and obviously more concerned with secular matters. One of the great recordings of a Brown spiritual arrangement was created by singer Jeanne Lee with her rendition of "There Is a Balm in Gilead" on the album Blasé by tenor saxophonist and bandleader Archie Shepp.