New Orleans-born, Grammy-winning guitarist and vocalist Norman Brown exudes positive thoughts and wisdom on his tenth album, “Let It Go.” Just when jazz fans thought they knew exactly what to expect from jazz and all its hybrid or fusion forms, Brown offers a CD full of R&B-influenced jazz that at times blurs the lines between the genres.
“Let It Go” is Brown’s first solo album in five years, and the R&B elements are strong, possibly because of who guest stars on the recording. Household names like Chante Moore, Sounds of Blackness, Marion Meadows, TrayCar and others are featured on several tracks.
Most of the songs are original. And when they are not original, such as the case of the ubiquitous “Ooh Child”, they are specially crafted by the arrangement and special treatment Brown gives them.
The song begins with a catchy melody that seems to have little to do with the original. Brown’s guitar work is a steady, head-nod-inducing force that remains constant throughout the song’s different motifs. The chorus sounds most like the 1970s hit by the Five Stairsteps. TrayCar’s vocals make the song smooth, without being sleep-inducing, and the active vocal play keeps the energy of the piece strong. The backing vocals are lush and remind listeners of early 1990s Boyz II Men.
Certainly, a song that gently comforts a person — one day, everything will be better — makes sense to include on an album titled “Let It Go.” The commonsense approach to narrative theme on this CD is one of its many selling points. In an age where negativity receives a great deal of attention, hearing music that reminds listeners there are better ideologies to follow is refreshing in its simplicity.
A funny thing happens when musical forms blend — at some point, the song begins to exhibit traits of either its parent form, or another genre that has been influenced by one of the fused subgenres. In this case, the anthemic “Ooh Child” begins to sound like gospel music: the anthemic positivity, the increasing intensity of the backing vocals, all add up to a soulful experience that is at once singular and universal. As part of Brown’s theme of love, respect for self, and wisdom theme, the song sounds fresh and brimming with hope. Perfect for times like these.