Roadhouse Album Review: Jewel Brown returns with a gem — “Thanks for Good Ole’ Music and Memories”

Jewel Brown — “Thanks for Good Ole’ Music and Memories” — Nic Allen Music Federation

Just as this recent album has lingered unnecessarily on my shelf for a while, superb songstress Jewel Bown has unnecessarily lingered outside the recording studio.

An electrifying jazz and blues singer in the 1950s and ’60s — best known as a stylish vocalist with Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars from 1961 until 1968 — she pretty much gave up the music business in the 1970s. In 2012 she recorded her first album in many years, “Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown,” followed by a solo effort in 2014, “Roller Coaster Boogie.”

Now, at 85, Brown has decided to once again grace us with her eloquent vocals on this album, very appropriately titled “Thanks for Good Ole’ Music and Memories.” The idea of good ole’ music, however, is vastly understated here. It should be, and is, great ole’ music.

And now Brown also adds her name as composer, co-writing seven originals with producer Nic Allen, and performs three covers in her return to recording. She’s backed by an aggregation of swinging musicians, who are a perfect fit for her classy vocals, with all their moods and styles.

She opens the session with an updated version of the Latinesque Harry Belafonte song “Have You Heard About Jerry,” simply titled “Jerry” here. (There’s a video below featuring Brown and Armstrong performing the song in a 1962 TV broadcast.)

The brief acapella “Pain and Glory” follows, with a chorus of male gospel vocals, in a spoken-word ode to faith. A very jazzy “Why Did You Do That” adds strong, bluesy vocals, again with a rich vocal male chorus. The percussive “Which Way Is Up” gently rocks. “Nitches and Glitches” is a torchy expression of independence kicked along with sassy horns.

“Flatitude” rejects fake flattery with a healthy dose of scat singing. “I Love Sunshine, Even More Rainy Nights” is a splendidly orchestrated slow jazz where “rain puts her in the mood” with a sensuous vocal turn smothered in liquid sax. “Song of The Dreamer,” written by ex-husband Eddie Curtis, is another lilting love song. “On The Road” is a gently swinging lyrical reminiscence of Brown’s enjoyment of touring with Armstrong, again scatting her way home.

The closer “How Did It Go” is pumps up the swing and jumps out with a bluesy flavor, ending the set on an upbeat musical note with some smooth guitar accompaniment.

Someone, is supposed to have said — and I once heard that it was Lena Horne — that “blues is the mother’s milk of jazz.” This excellent album sips from that source, but it’s a heady brew of the kind of fine jazz arrangements and inspired singing creates a joy all of its own. You owe it to yourself to drink deeply.

A fascinating video of the Jewel Brown story:

A video of Jewel Brown singing “Jerry” with Louis Armstrong from 1962, plus a bonus — Armstrong does “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen.”

The Goodyear Jazz Concert was broadcast live on television on April 2, 1962. The lineup includes Brown, Armstrong, Trummy Young (trombone), Joe Darensbourg (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), Bill Cronk (bass) and Danny Barcelona (drums).

Jerry (3:54)
Pain and Glory (1:30)
Why Did You Do That (3:29)
Which Way Is Up (3:52)
Nitches and Glitches (4:29)
Flatitude (2:14)
I Love Sunshine, Even More Rainy Nights (4:52)
Song of the Dreamer (4:11)
On the Road (5:04)
How Did It Go (3:38)

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