Smooth like creamy butter icing melting on the tip of your tongue is the image that comes to mind when describing the jazz vibes of guitar virtuoso Norman Brown. In May of this year, I was privileged to take in Brown’s performance at the Gaslamp Jazz Festival in San Diego, California and although he was sharing the stage with several jazz icons, including Peabo Bryson, Jeff Lorber and Marion Meadows, an electric vibe went through the crowd when Brown took to the stage. That vibe is revisited with his CD Stay With Me.
Two Norman Brown originals, "A Quiet Place" and "It Ain’t Over BWB," keep you hoping for more. Brown’s guitar flirts with the idea of engaging Kirk Whalum’s saxophone in a call and response, but never quite goes all the way. Rick Braun’s trumpet and flugelhorn complete the horn section. What can I say about Braun that has not already been said? There is only one standard of excellence that Braun needs to meet and that is the one he set a long time ago.
Two absolutely gorgeous romantic murals appear on this album, "Soul Dance" and "So In Love." The later tune is an uplifting song that paints beautiful pastel images. Drummer Teddy Campbell uses his sticks on the rims of his drums to great effect. "Soul Dance" is filled with delicious ear candy, including Brown’s amazing and seamless chord changes as well as a superb saxophone solo by Sam Riney. Brown collaborated with Jeff Caruthers and Paul Brown to write the song. Caruthers also developed the arrangements and Paul Brown donned the producer’s hat during the recording session at Funky Joint Studios.
The R&B title track "Stay With Me," was written, arranged and produced by Brian McKnight. At times it sounds very Boyz II Men like, which to coin a phrase isn’t exactly chopped liver. Both Brown and McKnight sing on "Stay With Me." McKnight also compliments Brown’s guitar licks, playing an assortment of instruments, keyboards, bass and rhythm guitar. The CD opens with the sweeping melody and the delicious vibes of "Let’s Take A Ride." Brown’s guitar wizardry ensures a quick pace, building upon the strong foundation built by bass player Alex Al.
R&B vocalist Nikkole, who has reached unbelievable heights as an independent artist and is considered one of the bright young stars on the music scene, lends her beautiful vocals to "You Keep Lifting Me Higher." The singer collaborated with Brown and Lloyd Tolbert to write "You Keep Lifting Me Higher," with Brown and Tolbert co-producing and collaborating on the arrangements. The CD Stay With Me by Norman Brown is another in a growing list of gems from an outstanding artist.