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Just Between Us
     

Just Between Us

5.0 1
by Norman Brown
 

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When Motown released Norman Brown's Just Between Us in 1992, the occasion marked not only the guitarist's first effort, but also the first release on Motown's new contemporary jazz imprint MoJazz. Ultimately, the guitarist fared better than the label did. Brown's debut hit the street at a peak of sorts for the contemporary/smooth jazz genre. The music recorded

Overview

When Motown released Norman Brown's Just Between Us in 1992, the occasion marked not only the guitarist's first effort, but also the first release on Motown's new contemporary jazz imprint MoJazz. Ultimately, the guitarist fared better than the label did. Brown's debut hit the street at a peak of sorts for the contemporary/smooth jazz genre. The music recorded in music studios that concentrated on creating easily identifiable grooves over improvisation for the pleasure of listeners who also liked funk and soul had become a highly marketable brand and was achieving record numbers in sales. Critics hated it -- for the most part -- and referred to it as "elevator music with a beat" or "the new disco" (as if the latter were a bad thing). Brown's obvious gift on his instrument caught jazz critics by surprise. This man could not only groove, but he was a monster player and improviser. It was obvious from the first notes of "Stormin'," the album's opening cut, that Brown had been deeply influenced by George Benson, but also some of the other revered soul-jazz players of the past, like Billy Butler and George Freeman. What they didn't take into account was that Brown knew a lot about making records coming into the process. He arranged the majority of the material here and had spent considerable time with the album's chief producer, drummer, composer, and recording artist, Norman Connors, who had enjoyed a string of hits after coming out of the "spiritual" soul-jazz era" of the '70s to become a major chart player. Brown's sound may have owed to Benson, but there was so much soul in his playing, and it was also so deeply rooted in adult urban soul of the period, that it transcended the club and youth scenes and appealed to adults. Brown and Connors worked up an album that stands almost as tall as his commercial breakthrough, and indeed primed him for it. After the Storm was huge, it remained on the Top 200 chart for two years. The strange thing is that Just Between Us may be the better album musically. Brown wrote eight of the set's 11 tracks, and each of them was a potential single. Whether it was the deep groove consciousness of "Stormin," the slippery, blessed-out romantic interlude that is the title track, the tough but polished funk that is "East Meets West," with beautifully textured dual keyboard lines and some wonderful hand percussion by Paulinho Da Costa, or the lithe, uptown soul vamp at the heart of the album's closer "Inside"; all of his melodies were infectious and memorable. What's more, Brown's guitar had an edge in its tone that bit harder than Benson's (at the time, anyway, because Benson was singing a lot more than playing). He used it as a human voice: it literally sung, whether playing the raw sensual melodies or offering small flights of fiery streetwise fancy in his solos. Brown's touch was golden and offered a new possibility in the smooth jazz arena for individual musical expression inside a rather narrowly defined format corridor. It may have taken him another album to break it wide open, but all the elements are here and assembled properly. In addition to his own fine tunes, Brown worked with Stevie Wonder on the arrangement for the latter's "Too High," complete with Boyz II Men as a backing chorus and the songwriter on lead vocal. The arrangement is way funky -- check the bassline by Richard Patterson as it grounds Brown's taut guitar work playing all through the grooves. The beautiful "Love's Holiday" by Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Skip Scarborough is also here, with an excellent backing female chorus to insure radio crossover to the urban stations at the time. The end result is an album that, although surely a product of its time in terms of production, is musically timeless. Its sense of balance between composition, arrangement, improvisation, and its various genre blends is still a blueprint for contemporary jazz in the 21st century.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/08/1992
Label:
Motown
UPC:
0737463700023
catalogNumber:
7000

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Norman Brown   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals,10-string Guitar
Boyz II Men   Vocals,Background Vocals
Gerald Albright   Tenor Saxophone
Ronnie Laws   Soprano Saxophone
Bobby Lyle   Piano,Soloist
Perri   Background Vocals
Tony Warren   Vocals,Background Vocals
Gary Bias   Flute,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone
Ray Brown   Trumpet
Ray Brown   Trumpet
Jeff Clayton   Flute,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone
Paulinho Da Costa   Percussion
Nathan East   Bass
Larry Farrow   Synthesizer,Keyboards,Synthesizer Bass
Herman Jackson   Synthesizer,Keyboards,Synthesizer Strings
Munyungo Jackson   Percussion
Wayne Linsey   Keyboards
McKay   Guitar,Rhythm Guitar
Della Miles   Vocals,Background Vocals
Charles Morris   Drums
Richard Patterson   Bass
Jerry Peters   Percussion,Keyboards
Land Richards   Cymbals,Drums
Brian Simpson   Keyboards
Sam Sims   Bass
Kirk Whalum   Tenor Saxophone
Verdine White   Bass
Stevie Wonder   Harmonica,Vocals
Mike Baker   Drums
Reggie C. Young   Trombone
Reginald Brown   Trumpet
Reginald Young   Trombone
Jeffrey Clayton   Flute,Saxophone
Chuck Morris   Drums

Technical Credits

Ralph Sutton   Engineer
Norman Brown   Arranger,Producer,Vocal Arrangements
Juewett Bostick   Arranger,Programming
Norman Connors   Producer
Paulinho Da Costa   Engineer
John Falzarano   Engineer
Steve McKeever   Producer,Liner Notes,Executive Producer,Concept
Steve Meltzer   Art Direction
Land Richards   Arranger,Drum Fills
Brian Simpson   Programming,Engineer
Denise Stewart   Arranger,Vocal Arrangements
Stevie Wonder   Arranger
Frank Wright   Arranger
Benjamin F. Wright   Arranger,Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements
Hollis King   Art Direction

Customer Reviews

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Just Between Us 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is some of the finest jazz guitar produced by a contemporary artist in years. The entire album is consistently quality pickin'. What's even more impressive is that his three succeeding albums have maintained the excellence that this initial disc started. It's extremely rare when all of an artist's works are equally superb. I'm waiting to see what number five sounds like. Any or all of the four would be terrific additions to any jazz fan's collection. (assuming of course that you like contemporary jazz).