BWB - BWB (2016)

BWB
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BWB’s first project seemed like a common sense move to executives at Warner Bros. Sax player Kirk Whalum, trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Norman Brown were label mates then when an executive commented that he’d like to see them “together grooving,” Brown recalled in an interview leading up to the release of their latest self-titled project. That first collaboration, Groovin’ dropped in 2002.

The second project took a long time coming as all three musicians focused on releasing their own projects and touring. BWB would not return until 2013 when the trio dropped the Michael Jackson tribute recording Human Nature. Their latest, the self-titled album released on the hot Artistry Music label, is the third installment in the collaboration between Brown, Whalum and Braun and it shows it doesn’t take long for this trio to reestablish a musical connection even after a lengthy layoff.

BWB’s first project seemed like a common sense move to executives at Warner Bros. Sax player Kirk Whalum, trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Norman Brown were label mates then when an executive commented that he’d like to see them “together grooving,” Brown recalled in an interview leading up to the release of their latest self-titled project. That first collaboration, Groovin’ dropped in 2002.

The second project took a long time coming as all three musicians focused on releasing their own projects and touring. BWB would not return until 2013 when the trio dropped the Michael Jackson tribute recording Human Nature. Their latest, the self-titled album released on the hot Artistry Music label, is the third installment in the collaboration between Brown, Whalum and Braun and it shows it doesn’t take long for this trio to reestablish a musical connection even after a lengthy layoff.

Although Brown, Whalum and Braun all made their reputations in the jazz world and SoulTrackers know Whalum from his performances with the Mack Avenue Superband, each musician has worked extensively in other genres as well. Braun toured and performed with War and Sade to name a few. Whalum toured with Whitney Houston, and Brown has been compared to George Benson and has been associated with Norman Connors – two artists known for producing high level jazz infused R&B music.

So the ease at which the three communicate and improvise as jazz artists, along with their comfort at laying down infectious R&B and funk grooves consistently throughout BWB is not a surprise. BWB is an instrumental album, and the vocals used on tracks such as “Bolly Boy” and “Bust A Move” are largely an afterthought - although the hook and the asides on the ultra-funky “Turn Up” will make some listeners fondly remember the late George Duke.

What fans of contemporary jazz and instrumental R&B receive on tracks such as the gliding “Memphis Steppin’,” the bluesy “Lemonade” and the funky title track are three artists who have developed an easy musical conversation with each other while living up to their reputations as imaginative and soulful innovators. The old saying is that the third time is a charm, and for BWB, their third album together is yet another charm. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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