Oscar Brown Jr. & Maggie Brown – We’re Live (Concert recorded 2001) – ESP-Disc

by | May 4, 2013 | Jazz CD Reviews

Oscar Brown Jr. & Maggie Brown – We’re Live (Concert recorded 2001) – ESP-Disc ESP-4071 [www.oscarbrownjrlegacy.com] *****:

(Oscar Brown Jr. & Maggie Brown, vocals; Africa Pace Brown on “All Blues Medley” & “Insight”; Angela, Cheryl Cassandra & Caroline Brown on “Insight”: Yoseph Ben Israel, doublebass; Avreeyal Ra, drums; Miguel de la Cerna, piano; Aaron Graves, p. on “Old Lovers Song”.

Oscar Brown Jr. was an amazing songwriter, lyricist and singer-performer.  He was also an African-American actor, director, playwright, activist, essayist and TV host.  He did two terrific LP albums in the 1960s with Columbia. He wrote moving lyrics for such jazz instrumentals as Nat Adderley’s “Work Song,” Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere,” and Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” and “Bid ‘Em.” I first heard him on the Steve Allen TV Show. Later he and his wife, singer/dancer Jean Pace, developed at least four different musicals. He had a one-man show for two years in London, and hosted a 13-week PBS program on The Story of Black Music. He composed over 1000 songs and over a dozen full-length theater pieces.

Oscan Brown Jr.’s political activism got him blacklisted. He had been a Communist Party member, but quit in 1956, saying he was “just too black to be red.”  He died in 2005, but now, with the release of this wonderful recorded concert performance, he has three albums out and everyone can re-discover his amazing talent.  The songs here are full of some of the history of jazz as well as some great wisdom and wit.  Assisting Oscar in this live recording made at a club in downtown Chicago is his daughter Maggie Brown, who worked with Abbey Lincoln and continues performing a program of her father’s creations plus some of the best jazz-vocal examples.

My favorite track of the 14 here is “All Over (All Owed Youth).”  It’s seven and a half minutes long. Oscar starts out with Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” then segues into a sort of rap about his feelings growing old and remembrances of what he did as a youth.  If nothing else gets you excited about his talents, this one should do it.  His daughter Maggie is also a great performer.

TrackList:  Introductions, Young Jazz, Bird to Word/Billie Brown’s Bounce, Bird Chase, Midnight on This Beach, A Tree and Me, All Blues Medley, Strongman, Insight, When Malindy Sings, All Over (Ode Owed Youth), My Little Maggie, Brown Baby, Old Lover’s Song.

—John Henry

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