Pianist Kathy Brown's debut album Mission: A Musical Journey
is appropriately entitled in more ways than one. For one, it captures many of the influences on her personal musical journey from the classical and folk music she heard at home in Mandeville through to the African and Latin rhythms which reached out and grabbed her from record stores in the United States.
And, making the nine-track instrumental album was a journey in itself, a voyage into production waters which she first dipped her fingers in three years ago.
I call it the alias 'Cyaan Done' album," Brown told The Sunday Gleaner, smiling. That name was actually brought about by my mother, who used to say 'it cyaan done?'."
Hard Drive Crash Songs
There was the hard drive that crashed, the part title track and one of two originals on the album, Mission" being the only song which was recovered, while Rasta Journey" had to be done over. Then there was the juggling of studio time, the jolly dancehall and reggae combination Flintstones was recorded after a wake-up phone call from drummer Desi Jones to say that a studio was free.
And while Mission: A Musical Journey took three years to complete, the years of Brown's musical development that it spans are even longer. Mission" was written in the late 1990s, though not played until 2003, while the other original, Latin Groove," was written in 2005.
And the last song on the album, a live cut of Summertime," was recorded live at a 'Jazz in the Gardens' concert at the Pegasus in 2003, with grandfather, Ntate Moholo, one of the last to be laid down in the studio.
Brown said she chose songs that she had had fun with over the years. I avoided some because I realized it was not going to be a traditional jazz/swing album, but it was going to be more an album that reflected my musical influences at the time," she said.
Marley has a double with Get Up, Stand Up" and Could You Be Loved," Maiden Voyage" coming second to the end.
Now that the mission has been accomplished Brown says I feel relieved. I feel grateful for this product. Not because I have talent means it would have got this far."
Being actually pleased with the entire album is another matter, though, as she says Kathy Brown is a perfectionist, so it is very hard for me to be excited about my own music. I am glad for what it is.
Still, she says there are songs on the album that I hear and I am amazed, like 'is Kathy Brown this?'"--"Latin Groove" being among that number.
As for the musicians, among them Jones, drummer Deleon White, percussionists Djenne Greaves and Denver Smith, bassists Aeon Hoilett and Sherwayne Thompson and guitarist Seretse Small, Brown says they were great and I am glad for them."
Vocalist Toni Anderson is featured on Latin Groove" and Could You Be Loved."
The time spent with the University Singers in the mid-to-late 1990s was a crucial period for Kathy Brown. In fact, it was on their home ground at the Philip Sherlock Center for the Creative Arts on the Mona Campus that she discovered what jazz was. She heard someone playing in the music room, walked in and asked what that was. The man playing said jazz and I said that is what I want to do."
Practiced By Listening to Programs
She went and practiced and listened to programs such as Afterglow on KLAS FM. When she felt up to scratch she went back to the person who had named jazz for her, said I am ready" and he put her on at the Wyndham, where he played regularly.
Still, Brown felt that love and practice was not enough and sought out Jill Gibson at the School of Music. After hearing Brown play, she said you have an ear for jazz already." It was a matter of learning the principles--and learn she did in sporadic one on-one sessions, where the two played pianos in what Brown says was like a constant master class."
The few things that she showed me went a long way, opened my ears to a lot of music out there and what your left hand should be doing while your right hand is doing the improvisation," Kathy Brown said.
Those were hands she could remember being on the piano at five years old. I don't know if I was playing before," she says. What I was doing at that time I would hear something that my sisters played or my father, I would hum it, go to the piano and play. I was not taught. I did not go to formal lessons until high school. I was very resistant. My mother said I think you should go, just to get the classical feel."
It was a matter of the lessons catching up with her as the teacher told her that she was already at grade four or five but it would be unfair to start her at that level, so she was placed in grade three. When she reached grade six, Brown told her mother that she had O" Levels and had to study. It was an excuse. I wanted to be free to play. I did not want to do any papers and any theory."
All those influences converged on Mission: A Musical Journey and, during the making of the album, Brown wrote four songs. One, Take It Easy," will be included on her next album, which will have more interesting arrangements of regular jazz standards."
And for the future, Kathy Brown says I hope to have more music, stronger music. I would like to do some tours. There are many jazz festivals out there."