Eye on the Scene

Local CD Review

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra

Blues Man From Memphis (Blue Canoe Records)

There's an overriding sense of familiarity when these jazzmen come together. All vets of the local jazz scene, the fellas of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra never sound slack; there's never an iota of chill between the notes, as it all flows seamlessly, bridging the gap between traditional and the more modern arrangements.

Donald Brown , the impeccably fluid pianist who has been a staple of local jazz for decades, feels more meditative on Blues Man From Memphis , and his notes delicately stitch their way into a dense tapestry. And the horns, led by the trumpet of Vance Thompson , empty sheet after sheet of powerful sound, slowly distilled into the vocalizations of a single sax, such as on â“New York,â” a piece that was arranged by saxman Greg Tardy .

Throughout the album, they create a varied musical canvass, sparked by the multi-octave range of the horn section, which is often tempered by the meticulousness of John Clayton 's walking bass.

But the real standout is the final track, â“Peace for Zim,â” which is an homage to South African jazzman Zim Ngqawana . The piece sprawls along for more than 10 minutes, maneuvering in and out of disparate styles, globetrotting across a vast musical palate.

In an interview with Ngqawana last year, he told us that â“all music should be called world music. That way we can begin to communicate easily. When you say â‘world music,' for me you refer to the music that is made by people in the world, addressing world issues, to know the meaning of life, the meaning of the world. The music becomes something else. You may call it a spiritual journey, but I just call it a meaning, to understand why we're here.â”

Local CD Review


Years of a Monkey (Moot Point)

With 20-odd years of experience in umpteen combos and solo projects, Knoxville's scenester/socializer/man-about-town, that's right, Randall Brown, makes a confident step into the â“legendary local fixtureâ” bracket as his latest vehicle, Quartjar, presents Years of a Monkey . While the album is unquestionably Brown's show, the able backing of drummer Donnie Mahan and bassist Doug Engle provides a full band feel, delivering a varied selection of sounds that showcase Mr. Brown's copious talents.

While the bulk of the album could be classified as intelligently rendered rock, Monkey features enough forays into blues, world music, and countrified sounds to make pigeonholing impossible. Never purposely eclectic, Mr. Brown is merely following his muse and capably employing the vast sonic palate at his disposal. Something of an aural grab bag, Monke y 's exotically packaged musical gifts are all keepers.     

Steeped in local lore, Brown is yet another unpretentiously Knox-centric artist who ranks in the local canon alongside standard-bearers RB Morris and Todd Steed . In fact, the aforementioned Mr. Steed makes an appearance on the album, along with a virtual who's who of area musicians that includes Greg Horne, Chris Cook, Laith Keilany , and Peggy Hambright , among others.  

The album's real selling point is the lyrics. Ever the bard, Brown offers whimsical and introspective verse, telling stories and liberally adding dashes of humor. But this time around, Brown seems much more confident than on earlier releases. And his newfound lyrical swagger and literary sensibility is exactly what makes this Monkey a lifelong member of the Local Greats team.

The city is resounding with the echo of scads of audibly breaking hearts after the news that Mr. Brown, long one of Knoxville's most eligible bachelors, has opted to tie the knot. That's right, Brown will wed his longtime partner, the lovely Becky Napier , this Saturday, July 28. Aw, shucks. Best wishes, kids! â" Kevin Crowe , John Sewell




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