NORMAN BROWN: It Hits Different (Shanachie)

  • Home
  • News
  • NORMAN BROWN: It Hits Different (Shanachie)

Smooth jazz fans need no introduction to the art and craft of guitar maestro, Norman Brown – the player George Benson describes as “one of the greatest and most articulate guitarists out there”. So good ‘ole Mr B and Norman’s countless fans will be delighted to know that there’s a new NB album out there very soon (March 29th to be precise).

It’s ‘It Hits Different’ –  a concise 11 tracker of original tunes that show that Norman’s a master of the guitar-led smooth jazz genre; indeed given George Benson’s absence from the scene due to illness, Brown clearly is the main man right now. And that’s obvious from the start here as he opens the album with a soulful groove, ‘Anything’ which  ticks all the requisite smooth jazz boxes. There’s more of the same on ‘Can’t Stop’, ‘Sundance’ and ‘Casual Cool’ – smooth jazz for sure, but never bland.

However, ‘It Hits Different’ shows what Norman’s fans already know – he’s no one trick pony. Take the title track for instance. This is a classy, building  pop/soul affair with a convincing vocal from track producer/keyboardist/drum programmer Wirlie Morris.

There are more vocals on ‘To Forever’ and ‘Wings Of Love’. The former is a laid back, chilled sort of thing while the latter is driven by a tight soulful groove. I’d describe both vocals here as “occasional” rather  than “full-on”. You know the sort of thing – sweet warbling around the tune’s hook (it’s James Champion on the former and that man Wirlie Brown on the latter).

Very different is ‘Chicken Shack’ This one has its roots deep in the blues. Here Norman and his team craft an authentic slice of soul-jazz. Different again is he complex, rhythmic ‘Ausar’ . Norman explains the title; ”’Ausar,’ is the first law of God which is God on earth, man’s highest form spiritually” – now you know!  ‘Cloud Chase’ (as the title suggests) is another chill out moment and finally we need to mention the intricate ‘Strollin’’ which proves (if proof be needed) that our Norman is the obvious successor to the seemingly semi-retired George Benson. Great keyboard support here from Tom Schuman of Spyro Gyra, by the way.

(BB) 3/5