Brown Bros. Year in Review 2018

2018 was a transitional year for the Brown Bros. It started eventfully with the brothers booking 2 nites @ An Die Musik Baltimore for a label mashup featuring local heroes and BBR alums’ Cyrus Chestnut and Warren Wolf.

These 4 sets over 2 nites: 1/12 – 1/13 were standing room only. They were deeply emotional sets, with the duo performing both originals from their own catalogs and music from luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Claude Debussy, and Pavement.

The brothers, upon being blown away during nite 1 called an audible, and found a talented Maryland based recording engineer named Doug Benson, to come record the 2nd nite’s performance.

Label confidant David “Sir Davey Jones” Slitzky trained down to Bawlmore to supervise the recording. A commitment by a talented young man that will not be forgotten.

Benson sent the brothers the following note along with the digital files a few weeks later “The raw audio is very good, clean, quiet and transparent.  I think you have a lot to work with.”

To date, the brothers have not aligned on releasing a live document of the recording, but discussions are ongoing, and there is reason for optimism that this project will see the light of day.

Chestnut and Wolf are all-time talents, and having them on the BBR roster is not taken lightly. Bros are actively working on a 2019 follow up.

After the good time experience in Baltimore, there was a looming crisis on the horizon, the titanically named “Jazz-Ageddon”. The Browns, with assist from label Head of Sound, Steven “Val” Mandel, had booked what was intended to be 3 nites of celebration, fusing artists from the Brown Bros. and sister label JMI Recordings.

The excitement was quickly battered by reality tho as infighting ensued, leaving all participants bloodied and worse for wear.  Musically, the 6 sets over 3 nites 1/22 – 1/24 went better than could ever have been expected – live magic really.  Lineups were packed with champions of today, and were led by Musical Directors Ray Angry and Warren Wolf.  Mandel brought his unique talents to bear during the engagement by booking comics that opened each set.

One of the Brown Bros. principals wrote the following ecstatic analysis of the shows:  “Some initial thoughts…Monday energy was due in part to novelty but still very exciting. Music was sloppy but involving like a jam band composed of musicians greater than any jam band. By second set group dynamics tightened up and took the entertainment value from novelty to serious all star set up. Highlights were James Carter first set and Wycliffe second set for their best of combo showmanship, technical ability and playing to my taste. Tuesday was the apogee. One of my favorite nights of live music of last few years. First set was chock full of surprises like Tia Fuller finding her footing, Ray finding his sea legs as leader and Marcus Gilmore sparking fires all over the place. Myron and Sean emerging as powerful horn harmonies and judicious soloing. Warren as always leaving the cumulative impression that he is a supreme leader and accompaniest with bursts of soul, be bop, swing and r and b. Willie finding his way in and Ali playing like he had something to prove and proving it.
Second set Tuesday was the top of the top. Most raucous crowd despite not being biggest. Bilal and Keyon almost stole whole show and Jmi originals getting people to move. Willie quietly asserts himself and Ben starts taking some of the best bass solos I’ve ever seen live.
Last night was the true aficionados’ show. Ray fully assumed command ironically by ceding announcing duties to Warren. Ray originals evolve into strongest and most consistent material graded on their technical complexity and challenge to band and audience. Energy seemed low first set but on reflection it was just crowd dealing with the challenges of Ray’s composition and a slightly more melancholy bilal. New vocal elements and daru spiced things up. Second set last night was the elegy…”

As of January 25, 2018, things have slowed some – there’s the talk related to the Live Cyrus and Warren record, a nascent Joe Pernice project, and a Gold Sounds vinyl reissue + re-think (the record was released in 2005 on CD only) being driven by Mandel.

Whatever happens, it’s never dull in the hallowed hallways of Brown Brothers Recordings. We genuinely wish you the best of everything in all of your endeavors, and thank you for your continued support.

Blotto West, December 2018, Somewhere in NYC


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