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Norman Brown

Norman Brown Norman Brown Morrice Blackwell
Guitarist Norman Brown is very glad to have received a Grammy award in 2003 for the Best Pop Instrumental for his CD Just Chillin'. In 2004, George Harrison won the award posthumously for Marwa Blues, which Brown feels made his award in 2003 more important because of the voting. He says, "The Grammy’s were so fair. Everybody felt like I deserved to win. It was still competition, but it was all of us. It was myself, it was Kirk Whalum, it was Kenny G, and it was Boney James and John Tesh. Well, these are all people that are in the smooth jazz format. This is what we do. So, it seemed fairly matched up at that time. I won and people felt like 'Wow! You really deserved to win that' and it seemed so fair."

Brown has released his follow up to Just Chillin' called West Coast Coolin' and his Grammy win helped him with the recording of the new release. He says, "Warner Brothers, my record company, has given me more attention. They're taking more chances. That's why I got the opportunity to do these vocal songs and to do 'em right. Do 'em with the right producers and get the right songs." Brown gets help on West Coast Coolin' from producers Paul Brown, James Poyser and Viktor Dupliax, who also helped produce Just Chillin'. He says, "they've really gave me the opportunity to focus in and I think that was due to winning the Grammy."

West Coast Coolin' wants to show the full Norman Brown package. He says, "I wanted to put all my talents together and try to give the people more of what they see live. The total Norman Brown. On the record, they get one thing, which are my song writing and my guitar playing. There are a couple more dimensions to it, so I try to give them that on this record. I collaborated more with writers as well as other producers to kind of broaden the scope and use all my talents. I just wanted to try to give the people more of what I have as an artist totally to give."

Brown has the chance on West Coast Coolin' to not only show his guitar showmanship, but his vocal skills as well. He says, "People have been asking me to sing because I do so much scatting with the guitar. It's a form of vocalizing and people say 'Man, go ahead and sing a song' and then I started singing a song in the show and people said 'Man, why don't you sing it on the record?' I took it one step at a time. On Just Chillin I really started to incorporate vocals into my CD and I had all these guest vocalists. Michael McDonald, Chante Moore, Mikki Howard, Debbie Nova. Well, I just kept that thing going with West Coast Coolin' and added my vocals in those slots, basically."

Norman Brown says the he was mainly into singing in his younger years. He says, "in junior high school, I was in the choir and small ensembles, but then I just really lost interest in singing. I got so into instrumentalists and jazz musicians. I was not interested in singing at all." During that time, Brown was interested first in the guitar mastery of Jimi Hendrix, which was when he decided to make the guitar his main focus. However, one of his teachers gives Brown a warning. He says, "My choir teacher told me not to do that because one day I was going to need that. She was absolutely right. I've spent probably the last ten years working on just getting all the vocal chops back." But his father, who was a steelworker, introduced Brown to jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and he changed his focus toward jazz.

West Coast Coolin' helps to bring new dimension to Brown's many talents. He says, "I wanted to move deeper into the R&B grooves that I have been exploring both on stage and in the studio. I was interested, more than anything, in giving the music the space to involve. My last CD Just Chillin' helped the music get into the right direction and the Grammy was a tremendous affirmation of that direction. The goals in West Coast Chillin' was to do more singing and to go further into some of the great soul and R&B sounds that have been such a tremendous influence on me. I tried to bring these two goals together on this new album.

Norman Brown feels very sad about how smooth jazz releases are being ignored by smooth jazz radio program directors. He says, "we're losing slots for our music to a lot of the oldie popular vocalists music. That music has been played more than our instrumental music. We only maybe get one to two singles off of an album, even if the album has five good singles on it. I don't think they will even play my vocal stuff. They don't play much of George Benson's vocals either. They play his older stuff, but it's amazing.

Being a former new artist in smooth jazz and having his first three releases on Motown's Mojazz label, Brown says new artists are getting a bad break. He says, "it's tough for a new artist. There is no place almost on the playlist in the format. It's so bombarded with these oldies. We're not talking about not playing them because of who they are; we're talking about the type of music that they're making. They're not going to take our instrumentals and play them on their stations."

From those early Mojazz releases to his last three Warner Brothers release and a Grammy, Norman Brown has been storming on the scene to show he can be both a great guitarist, but a great vocalist as well. West Coast Coolin' makes Brown a double threat. He says, "I'll put a saxophone album out and then I'll be a triple threat." You'll never know what happens next.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Norman Brown
  • Interview Date: 8/1/2004
  • Subtitle: Just Chillin' and Coolin'
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