1. Rockin’ Radio
3. Turn It Up (Come On Y’all)
5. A Brighter Tomorrow
6. Never My Love
7. Mr. Business
8. Feel Like Making Love
Source: Vinyl LP
Format: VBR V0 MP3 (FLAC lossless format available upon request)
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Trumpet/flugelhorn maestro Tom Browne was among the first artists to emerge during the beginnings of a flavor of jazz fusion that leaned heavily on contemporary R&B grooves and performed favorably on the associated music charts. The much maligned “smooth jazz” radio format did not exist when artists like Tom Browne were on the scene, and the oft-watered down (compared to the jazz fusion of the 1970s) from which the negative connotation is derived did not exist either. Browne is best known for the smash hit “Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.)”, the anchor of his sophomore album Love Approach (1980), a song whose popularity endures in the present day, as a “cookout” standard of sorts. Before and after that album, recording for David Grusin and Larry Rosen’s GRP imprint, Tom Browne offered a steady and sure-footed collection of music very much in the same vein, successfully mixing the jazz and R&B worlds together — not unlike many of the other acts on the imprint such as Angela Bofill, Dave Valentin, Don Blackman, Browne’s young partner-in-crime Bernard Wright, and Grusin himself.
By 1983, Browne had moved to GRP’s host label, Arista; in step with that move, Browne had also moved from the Jamaica (Queens, N.Y.) funk sound that he and artists like Bernard Wright and Don Blackman had made popular for that short period, toward his first true forays into electro-funk (Wright had made a similar move himself, on his sophomore effort Funky Beat). Maurice Starr, who was just beginning to find success as producer for the Boston-based vocal quintet New Edition, lends his services to the title track, which was much in line with the sounds of the group of which he was a key member, The Jonzun Crew (his brother Michael co-produces). The following two tracks, while not bearing the exact Jonzun Crew hallmarks, are very much in the same vein — meant to get you to breakout the cardboard and practice your windmills on the floor. In many respects, “Cruisin” and “Turn It Up”, would not sound too far out of place with selections from Egyptian Lover, Herbie Hancock in the Laswell period (of which he was currently recording), or Paul Hardcastle.
From there, Browne switches into a much more familiar sound as the rest of the album bears the Grusin/Rosen production tag. However, even here, the sounds are decidedly much more electric than anything else Browne had released up until this point; there are no live drums played anywhere on the record, and for this section, Browne (!) is credited for his use of the Linn Drum machine. “Angeline” is a delightful little number that inspires repeat play, “A Brighter Tomorrow” (with Carol Woods singing lead) is perhaps the album’s second anchor track, and “Mr. Business” is an uptown funk scorcher that brings it back to a more “street” New York sound. The album’s closer, the ever-familiar Eugene McDaniels composition “Feel Like Making Love”, seems to be a rite of passage for the masters of “smoother” jazz, although Browne’s interpretation is a much more intimate take on the standard: a duet with guitarist Bobby Broom, who applies a more subdued tone than his contributions earlier in the record.
Browne would continue in the electro-funk mode afterward, reuniting with Maurice Starr for the followup Tommy Gun, which recently has seen a CD issue. Considering that Browne’s first four albums have finally seen CD issue (Love Approach more than once), I have to wonder why this one was skipped — if for anything, the “GRP” side of this record is worth the price of admission, and the title track was a hit. Maybe someday, the reissue gods will shine on this one, but until then… you’ll have to hear it here.