Local jazz notable Donald Brown enjoyed a coming out of sorts at his Oct. 13 performance at the Grill on Highlands Row: It was his first live show in Knoxville in more than a year following surgery, in January, to repair torn ligaments in his wrist.
Brown, who has been plagued with debilitating arm and shoulder ailments throughout his illustrious career, had to stop playing as a result of the tears around late summer 2011. He says the injury was partly due to the wear and tear of playing, and partly due to his ongoing orthopedic ailments.
He’s back with a purpose, though, having already recorded a new CD in New York about two months ago for his longtime label, Space Time, for whom he has recorded more than 10 records now since 1996. The new record, scheduled to be released in January, will feature mostly standards, three or four songs by other jazz greats like McCoy Tyner, and a couple of Brown originals.
Brown is joined by Bob Hurst on bass, with Marcus Gilmore and Brown’s son Kenneth Brown splitting time on drums. Guest artists, including saxophonist Kenny Garrett and trumpeter Wallace Roney, join the group on a few tracks.
Brown’s schedule will stay busy for the foreseeable future. Coming off his first live public performance anywhere since his hiatus—in Memphis, in late September, with trumpeter Bill Mobley’s big band—Brown recently learned that the Kenny Garrett solo album he produced last year, Seeds From the Underground, has been nominated for a Soul Train Award. Building on that success, he will re-enter the studio with the sax player in early December to record the follow-up in New York.
In the meantime, he’s leaving Oct. 21 for an eight-day stint in Europe and an annual date in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where his sons Keith (keyboard/piano) and Kenneth will join him after playing an earlier series of dates in France themselves.
Brown seems to have taken up his whirlwind routine of playing and touring with some alacrity, despite the long layoff. “A month after I was able to play, I recorded,” he says. “But it was very difficult. And it had been close to two years since I had a CD out, so I guess it was time.
“I guess I’m happy. Due to the musicians on it, they made it turn out much better than I could have expected.”