Jazz CD Reviews

Paul West / Mark Brown – Words & Music – OA2 Records

Some great original tunes from the versatile Seattle duo

Published on January 21, 2008

Paul West / Mark Brown – Words & Music – OA2 Records
Paul West / Mark Brown – Words & Music – OA2 Records 22041, 41 min. *****:

(Paul West, vocals/piano; Mark Brown, vocals/piano/blues harp/trumpet; Dave Raynor, guitar/elec. bass/shaker/vocals; Lindy West, B/G vocals; Jon Goforth, alto sax; Bill Reichenbach, bass trumpet; Chuck Deardorf, bass; John Bishop, drums)

I’ve said before I’m not strongly into vocal music, but when a singer communicates a real personality and believability – even if not having a perfect voice – then I’m a fan. Mark Brown sounds to me like a cross between Bob Dorough and Dan Hicks, two of my favorites. But then comes the first ballad track and I hear a quite different voice.  Turns out the two often share writing the music and  lyrics, sometimes do it individually, and they take turns at performing the vocals. Paul has a distinctive voice of his own too. The two of them have been performing together in the Seattle area for a quarter of a century. And if I read the liner notes correctly, they both have professional careers outside of music, but they have a superb artistic collaboration going.

Two of the dozen songs are familiar jazz instrumentals to which they have done lyrics a la Lambert, Henricks & Bavan – Dizzy’s Groovin’ High and John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris. Thumbin’ a Ride originated with a kalimba which Paul picked up in an African shop. He wrote some lyrics and then challenged Mark to come up with a tune using just the five notes of the thumb piano.  Goodbye Old Friend and It’s You are both tributes to friends and very touching. The brief a capella We’re So Lucky was stimulated by Paul first hearing Ladysmith Black Mambazo and wanting to emulate that sound in our culture.  Mark is also a fine trumpet player, and their sextet of sidemen is used sparingly but tastefully, making the delightful vocals the spotlit attraction here. I look forward to enjoying an evening of this fine duo in person sometime soon in either Seattle or Portland.

TrackList: Laugh to Keep From Cryin’ Blues, Groovin’ High, I Need More Time, Afternoon in Paris, Thumbin’ a Ride, Goodbye Old Friend, It’s You!, We’re So Lucky, Mondo Condo, Kind Word, Today’s the Day, Words and Music.

 – John Henry


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