Local jazz and R&B keyboardist Keith Brown—perhaps most widely recognized as the man behind the keys in popular local funk/rock/soul ensemble Aftah Party—will see the release of the first recording under his own name, Sweet and Lovely, on Space Time Records on April 15. Son of Knoxville pianist/composer/jazz professor Donald Brown, Keith is a formidable player and composer in his own right. Based in France, Space Time is the same label for which his father has recorded throughout much of his career, and it will afford the release international distribution.
According to Keith, Space Time svengali Xavier Felgeyrolles had been interested in recording him since hearing his trio play a festival in France in 2007. Donald Brown booked studio time with Felgeyrolles for his own project last November; when he was forced to back out due to long-standing chronic pain issues in his hands, the time seemed right for Keith to step in.
Keith says he spent five days in France all told, playing club shows in Paris by night and recording in the nearby small town of Meudon by day. The band for his recording sessions included well-traveled jazzmen Essiet Essiet on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, as well as trumpeter Stephane Belmondo and saxophonist Baptiste Herbin.
"It was a great experience," Brown says. "But it took until the second day for me to really get comfortable playing with people like Essiet and Marcus, who have done this so many times before, and having to take a leadership role with them. As a leader, you're in charge of arranging, the presentation, putting the music together."
Felgeyrolles acted as producer, Brown says, although his father was also there. "He listened from the outside, and had a big role in helping us hear what was going on," Brown adds.
The playlist for the album comprises mostly standards, although it does include a couple of originals, "J Roll" and "Lady in Jazz." Brown says he hopes to have an opportunity to record more of his own songs on subsequent outings.
"I think the main thing this time was to pick some songs I enjoy hearing and playing, some things people will enjoy listening to," he says. "It's not necessarily ground-breaking. I'd like to push things a little more in the future. Like most artists, you tend to be overly critical of what you've done at first. But the further away I get, the more I'm able to appreciate what we recorded."
The album's local release party will be held at Alive After Five at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday, April 15.