Wednesday, January 26, 2022


Woodward Avenue
January 17, 2022

In 2021, Paul Brown pulled off the fascinating feat of hitting #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart for the second time with the same song, as his colorful revisit of “Nothin’ But Love” ft. saxophonist Jeff Ryan caught on with radio and genre fans just as powerfully as it did when he produced it for Boney James back in 1997. This success came between two other popular re-imaginings from the guitarist’s cleverly titled, Ones Upon a Time, which also charted impressively – Notorious (Top Ten) and “Deep Into It,” which hit #3.

All of this glorious, free-spirited, star-studded updating with Brown’s bluesy guitar in the lead reaches a fresh crescendo with the album’s infectious latest single “Just Chillin’” – a true testament to the concept of saving the best for last. Originally recorded by fellow guitar great Norman Brown 20 years ago, it’s a milestone track not only because it was yet another #1 chart hit for Paul Brown, but because it’s the title track from one of the only pure smooth jazz recordings to win a Best Contemporary Instrumental Album Grammy – in only the third year of the category’s existence.

Approaching this all-time classic anew, the challenge for Brown must have been, how do you top or even equal perfection? True to its title, though the essential flow of the song is the same, creating a soulful sense of cool laid back, all is well with the world magic, Brown discovers a fresh array of sonic dynamics vibing with saxophonist Darren Rahn, another top genre artist/producer whose brilliance as a composer/producer all too often overshadows his equally impressive career as an artist. In the early going, Rahn’s sensual horn plays a gently persuasive harmony role, creating the horn textures around Brown’s snappy, bluesy guitarisma, with occasional single horn accents. The track picks up intense steam midway through after the second chorus, when all bets are off and Rahn is given free rein to pour all his intense emotion into a brilliant, soaring improv-rich solo. This spurs Brown to play the next section more loosely and playfully in tandem with the rising horn section, and Rahn riffs powerfully off this, leading to a muscular, joyful guitar-sax conversation at varying tempos that keeps the listener engaged till the very end.

One of the unique elements of the Norman Brown original that Paul Brown keeps on the revamp is the series of hypnotic synth flute accents (played on the new version by Gregg Karukas) in the intro and towards the outro. Those touches fly by both times but they stand out as beautiful moments bridging this brilliant new version with the original. Also on board serving the seductive groove are Brown’s longtime rhythm crew of bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Gorden Campbell and legendary percussionist Lenny Castro.