Tuesday, June 8, 2021


Woodward Avenue Records
June 4, 2021

Longtime urban jazz fans have probably felt a nostalgic sense of déjà vu these past months as the first two singles from Paul Brown’s Ones Upon a Time hit the Billboard Top Ten Smooth Jazz Airplay Chart. The guitarist’s concept of freshly re-imagining as an artist classic radio hits he had produced (mostly) for others led a Richard Elliot fueled revamp of Rick Braun’s “Notorious” to reach #7 and the Brown-Jeff Ryan collaboration on Boney James’ 1995 smash “Nothin’ But Love” to hit #1. Aside from experiencing dynamic new arrangements, the truly fun part of this experience is Brown’s interaction with the different artists he’s vibed with over the years.
There’s no doubt Brown will reach similar heights with his sensual, soulful and ultra-vibey light funk spin through “Deep Into It,” whose original version was the title track to Larry Carlton’s 2001 album and hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. This time, Brown keeps a similar tempo, but fashions a whole new atmosphere and flow by changing out the sax for Braun’s silky, soaring flugelhorn, which breezes along in sparkling musical conversation with the lead guitar and then, with spirited whimsy and improvisational notes to spare, swells on the chorus with a snazzy horn arrangement featuring Lee Thornburg (trumpet, valve trombone) and saxophonist Greg Vail.

Because they’re the focal artists, our ears will no doubt catch Brown’s crackling guitar grace and Braun’s dreamy cool from the get go, but upon repeated listenings, the deeper (pun intended) textures that really drive the track powerfully emerge. Gregg Karukas’ rich, bluesy and subtly simmering keyboard harmonies are the most prominent element, but as with so many of Brown’s best tracks, everything grooves along on the energy of the rhythm section of Roberto Vally (bass), Gorden Campbell (drums) and the legendary Lenny Castro on percussion. These cats form the urban jazz/equivalent of the famed Wrecking Crew, driving the infectious exuberance of so many classics tracked at Brown’s Funky Joint studio. Needless to say, “Deep Into It” deserves a deep dive to fully appreciate its subtleties beyond the hook that will take radio by fire all summer long. – Jonathan Widran

Paul Brown – Guitar
Rick Braun – Flugelhorn
Roberto Vally – Bass
Gregg Karukas - Keys
Gorden Campbell – Drums
Lenny Castro – Percussion
Lee Thornburg - Trumpet & Valve Trombone
Greg Vail - Saxes