The pairing of guitarist Paul Brown, the greatest producer in the history of smooth jazz, and nylon string guitarist Marc Antoine has to be a jazz record company’s version of pairing Elton John and Billy Joel on tour. The star production power and innate musical sense of Brown combined with the Parisian-born and now Madrid-based Antoine, 1994’s Radio & Records "Best New Artist of the Year," would and should create a ripping recording. Thankfully, they do just that.
These two continually chart-topping smooth jazz heavy-hitters played together on Paul Brown’s Guitar Night, a 2008 30-date tour of both the East and West Coasts. Their sound, a combination of Brown’s large sounding electric Gibson L-5 guitar was pitted against Antoine’s nylon string guitar to such a great effect they’ll keep the tour alive in 2009. One listen to Foreign Exchange and it’s easy to see why. With hipster melodies like that found on the title cut, to deep grooving cuts like "French Connection," Brown finds himself involved in yet again another winning recording.
Brown’s work as a producer with artists such as Euge Groove and Boney James has, quite frankly, usually been better than what he’s done as a solo artist. While he’s had tremendous success on his own solo recordings, having his version of Grover Washington Jr.’s "Winelight" on his 2005 solo album The City ranked by Mediabase as the genre’s most spun track of the year and Radio & Records and Mediabase citing "The Rhythm Method" from Brown’s White Sand disc as the most played song of 2007, neither of those discs, track for track, standout as solidly as his solo debut Upfront. It seems in working with and for other artists, Brown finds the kick he needs to step outside of himself and bring all of his years of music submersion and the subsequent skills there in developed to the fore. Here, in working and performing with Antoine, Brown fashions not only ten incredible tracks, but also lays down the best recorded solos of his young guitar recorded career.
Every track is a standout success, something that is exceedingly rare in smooth jazz. "Brother Earl" is one of those typical R&B instrumental smokers you’ll want to listen to over and over and over. Brown lets loose some of his deepest soul in his low note guitar growling lines and you can tell in the five years since he started his solo career how far he’s progressed as an upfront star soloist. If you don’t hear shades of B.B. King in Brown’s playing on this track and aren’t moved by Brown’s rocking rhythms, you need to check to see if you’ve got a pulse.Antoine, no slouch himself, turns "On The Down Low" into a smoothly seductive vibe with the use of repeated notes in his short solo before turning on the simmering passion in his short rejoinders to Brown’s improvised thoughts. Special note must be made of Jerry Hey and his horn section, the best cat in Hollywood you’ve probably never heard of. If this recording isn’t the best-selling smooth jazz recording of 2009, which it truly deserves to be, there is something wrong with the industry.