Mel Brown – Mister Groove
(Karmenpolicy Records 2000)
This is Mel Brown’s first studio-recorded release in over a decade. Being a Portlander, I get the chance to go see Mel often, so I think that makes me qualified to judge his performance, and this one has essence. Accompanied by regular sidemen Fred Trujillo on Bass and Bobby Torres on Congas, Bongos and percussion, and Glenn Holstrom bringing up the Organ, Mel puts down a series of strong, funky tracks. Renato Coranto’s sax is melodic and creative on the second track “Break and Run”, a very up tempo run from start to finish.
Young, multi-talented Portland-based producer Luther Russell plays guitar on a number of tracks including the Bluesy original “What It Is”, one of four original tracks. Russell also assisted in the production and engineering of the CD. The cover of “Viva Tirada” is sweet and soulful. Originally performed by the East L.A. band El Chicano, Mel’s cover of “Viva” is reminiscent of soulful Santana hits of the 70’s, carried by Holstrom’s flowing organ and Torres conga.
Through it all, Mel is there. Steady, rhythmic and funky. “Red Bones” is probably the smoothest track. Charles Earland would applaud the feel and flavor of this one. Another great Portland jazz figure, “Sweet Baby” James Benton lends his syrupy vocals to the mellow “I Want a Little Girl”. The CD ends with a lively take on the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Happening Brother”. This is a good CD, you should give it a listen.