https://soundcloud.com/user1698211/sets/a-tribute-to-oscar-brown-jr

Featuring Dorian Ford Jennifer Maidman and Phil Harper & myself, Carol Grimes at Lauderdale House Highgate London

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Performed At Ronnie Scotts and Lauderdale House London
Oscar Brown Jr Tribute feat. Carol Grimes

Oscar Brown Jr Tribute feat. Carol Grimes

Oscar Brown Jnr – Tribute Quintet, Carol Grimes vocals, Dorian Ford piano, Neville Malcolm bass, Winston Clifford drums and Annie Whitehead trombone.

Carol Grimes pays tribute to the late Oscar Brown Jr.

Celebrating the Life of Oscar Brown Jnr 1926-2005 – singer/ songwriter/poet/lyricist/activist. ‘Sublime words, expressive voice, big heart and an immense mind… what a guy. This is an evening dedicated to the memory of a man who has inspired me for more years than I can remember’ 

Carol Grimes, a truly unique artist, sets the scene. Oscar Brown Jnr wrote the lyrics for Miles Davis’ All Blues, Nat Adderley’s Work Song and collaborated with Max Roach on his We insist! Freedom Now suite. ‘Colour, a colour… the blues is more than a colour.’  …..

 

Camden New Journal

Music celebrating the Black freedom movement in the US featured strongly in a tribute paid by jazz singer Carol Grimes to Oscar Brown Jr at Lauderdale House, Highgate, on Thursday. Notable among her strong backing group was Tufnell Park pianist Dorian Ford.

“He was a black activist communist and he wrote so many of the song lyrics we now take for granted,” she said opening her set. “He’s one of the few men I fell in love with that I never met. Back in the 1960s and 1970s when a large proportion of American society was segregated, it took bravery to be a black political activist.” Oscar Brown’s career in music began after Mahalia Jackson recorded one of his songs in the late 1950s.

His first major endeavour was the “We Insist – Freedom Now” collaboration with drummer Max Roach. Shortly afterwards, his first solo album, Sin and Soul, sought to tackle the experiences of African-Americans.

He gained immediate fame as an innovative songwriter by penning lyrics to existing jazz numbers, setting words to Nat Adderley’s Work Song and to the Miles Davis composition All Blues, both given powerful renderings by Carol Grimes.

Other numbers to receive her rocking treatment included Humdrum Blues, Excuse Me for Living, Somebody Buy Me a Drink and Brother Where Are You?

Carol Grimes has been singing for more than 40 years. Despite her hectic schedule, she still finds time to lead a weekly Kentish Town community choir for people with Parkinson’s disease and similar conditions, their friends and carers.

“An evening singing with Carol is more therapeutic than all the anti-depressant pills put together,” said Nina Temple who instigated the choir after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the young age of 44.

Although the choir doesn’t have any vacancies at present, Carol Grimes is helping to set up a second Sing for Joy choir at the National Neurological Hospital, Queen’s Square, and Bloomsbury.

 

Oscar Brown Jr

Politically committed jazz entertainer who put the message in his music

If you’re able to dance this mess around and sing at 77 as captivatingly as Oscar Brown Jr. did this past weekend, then you should wake up every morning, kiss your reflection, and thank who-/whatever you praise. Nobody’s gonna blame you. The snap in Brown’s step may not have been as sharp as it was when he debuted in 1960 with Sin and Soul (Columbia), but his voice had barely aged a second. Backed by the nimble and responsive Aaron Graves Trio–pianist Graves, drummer Larry Bright, and bassist Kenny Wright–Brown glided through a short but rousing set that culled witty, funny, soulful, and politically minded songs from his younger years’ classic songbook, but Brown’s delivery added the ballast that time lends.

An actor and radio personality prior to becoming a singer, Brown never lost his dramatist’s engaging banter, and he eased into his set riffing on his own life and memories, cracking up a predominantly middle-aged audience with his anecdotes. “When you told people you wanted to be a singer they told you to wake up [and] get a job” Brown joked, before inviting, “Let’s go back to when jazz didn’t get a college education.”

The group slid spotlessly into “All Blues,” the Miles Davis tune to which Brown set free-verse lyrics back on 1963’s Tell It Like It Is! A slow stroll at first, with Brown declaring “the blues are more than a colour” in a hushed voice, the lyrics grew more imagistic as the tempo picked up and Graves’ piano embellished lines over the melody.

It delivered a quick reminder that Brown was not only a talented songwriter and lyricist but remarkably gifted at penning sympathetic, colourful lyrics for instrumental jazz of his time. He followed “Blues” with Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere,” to which he wrote childlike lyrics inspired by his son, and Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.” In the middle of “Midnight,” the trio wound through Monk’s luxuriously angular tune and Brown broke into an extemporaneous performance of his own “The Beach” poem–“For those arriving on this beach/ There is no prayer to pray nor preach/ To beg us off in any tongue/ Since we have outlived dying young”–before returning the song itself.

Brown’s genre and mood juggling–spoken word and jazz jumping from lighthearted (his hilarious renditions of “Signifyin’ Monkey” and “The Snake”) to reverential (a gospel-tinted backing to another poem recitation), and almost blue (a ribald “A Ladiesman”)–was a appropriate close to an evening’s worth of civic-minded creativity. This event marked the 75th anniversary of West Baltimore’s Unity United Methodist Church, as well as the 15-year service of its senior minister, the Rev. Kwame O. Abayomi. Both were presented with Baltimore City Council resolution commendations–and Brown was named an honorary citizen of Baltimore–and the entire event felt like a neighborhood celebration. The Umoja African Dancers opened the evening, vocalist Tamm E. Hunt performed, Rosemont Elementary and Peabody Preparatory student Evan Canty played three short violin pieces, and Brown was immediately preceded by the foxy moxie of poetess Jah Hipster (whose “A Jazz Poem” and “Freedom: A Love Poem for All My Soldiers on a Budget” were exactly what spoken word should be–short bursts of engaging, passionate verse). And a simple line from one of Brown’s performed poems provided the perfect couplet for it all: “To take time and make it swing/ is so valuable a thing.” True.

Email Bret McCabe

The singer-poet Oscar Brown Jr, who has died of complications of a blood infection aged 78, was a vocalist whose technique was steeped in jazzy agility and swing, but whose talents were too diverse to allow him to slot conveniently into the “jazz vocalist” category alone. His performances were consistently witty, shrewd, musical and humane, and he wrote lyrics to several classic jazz anthems that sounded integral to them, rather than afterthoughts.

He was also a trenchant observer of hypocrisies and injustices, with a history of intelligent combativeness about citizens’ rights – artists’ or otherwise – that did not always go down well with the music industry.

He never committed himself so completely to the jazz life as to build a distinct reputation there, and after his success in the 1960s he increasingly tended to be overlooked by the media and the cognoscenti. Yet he continued his live shows until recently, and these often led surprised observers to comment on the injustice of his comparative obscurity.

Brown liked his programmes to have a thematic shape, sometimes devoting a show to the music of his hometown of Chicago, or to where he was performing. On his 75th birthday in Los Angeles, with ageing as his theme, he remarked to the audience: “I’m not so much celebrating it as I am grimly observing it.” Yet for those who witnessed it, his performance was still full of an energy, compassion and optimism that testified to his still-flowering gifts, and to the rhythmic momentum he had always drawn from jazz.

A Brown set would include his hit songs – The Snake, or the hypocrisy-puncturing Signifyin’ Monkey – but there would be plenty of space for landmarks of jazz composing, like Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time or Billie’s Bounce, Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight or the Miles Davis classic, All Blues. Brown’s lyrics for the last count among his most popular achievements.

Brown was the son of Oscar Brown Sr, a successful lawyer and property broker – who wanted his son to follow the same career path – on Chicago’s South Side. He played his first professional gig as a singer on the national radio series, Secret City, when he was 15. He served two years in the US army, and, from only 21, spent five years hosting Negro Newsfront, the first black radio news programme in the country.

In the immediate postwar period, with racial prejudice still endemic in the US, Brown wanted to take a bigger step towards making a difference. He ran, unsuccessfully, for the Illinois state legislature in 1948 and, in 1952, contested a Republican congressional primary. He was also a member of the Communist party for a time, and was accused within it of “negro nationalism”. Singing and songwriting were still, primarily, his hobbies.

Then in 1958, he attended the opening of Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin In The Sun, about a poor black family living on the South Side of Chicago. He met Hansberry’s husband, the New York music publisher Robert Nemiroff, a record deal followed and, by 1960, he was working with bop drummer Max Roach on We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, a landmark session of the civil rights era, and on his own album, Sin And Soul.

He launched Sin And Soul in 1960 with a season at New York’s Village Vanguard, and made headlines. Years of song and scriptwriting, guided by intuition and political impatience, had given him a wealth of powerful and engaging material.

Brown and Nemiroff also collaborated on the former’s musical Kicks & Co, a project admired by the likes of Martin Luther King and Eleanor Roosevelt. It previewed in Chicago in 1961, but never got to Broadway, though, in 1960, NBC’s Today Show gave Brown a two-hour special, focused on it.

Brown found himself singing Brown Baby as news was breaking about a school bombing in Alabama. A flood of letters followed, and Brown said later that the moment had convinced him that the sharing of emotions through music could have political repercussions he had underestimated. He was coming closer to adopting the critical, but healing, role pioneered by his most significant political and artistic guide, Paul Robeson.

Brown began to share bills with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. He invented a one-man show, Oscar Brown Jr Entertains, reworking material from Kicks & Co, and, attracting press accolades like the “high priest of hip”, in 1962 introduced the Jazz Scene USA television series. In 1969, on Broadway, Muhammad Ali starred in Buck White, Brown’s musical adaptation of a play about a black militant. Brown played the role himself later in San Francisco.

During his career, Brown composed several hundred songs and made 11 albums. He won TV Emmy awards, hosted the 1980 public broadcasting series From Jump Street: The Story Of Black Music, and worked as a screen actor.

He consistently refused to accept the received wisdom that radical politics and sophisticated, ambiguous art could not be joined. He fought to move such material from the world of trade-union fundraisers and obscure independent recordings on to big stages and big labels. He never sidelined his devotion to music for the sake of an agenda. His art was admired by some of the biggest stars in jazz, and his musicianship made friends of enemies.

He is survived by his wife Jean Pace, four daughters and a son.

· Oscar Brown Jr, singer, songwriter, playwright and actor, born October 10 1926; died May 29 2005

The Homecoming Memorial Service for musician/poet/activist Oscar Brown Jr. was held in Chicago at Christ Universal Temple on Friday, June . It is so unusual that I feel a tragic sense of loss as if he were a member of my own family yet I never met him during his lifetime. This is the same feeling I had when I learned of the tragic passings of John Lennon, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, but at least I can say that in Oscar’s case he left the planet due to a natural death and God blessed us with his being for seventy-eight years. I feel honored that Oscar’s son Napoleon David Brown sent me a copy of one of Oscar Brown Jr’s later poems.

This Beach by Oscar Brown, Jr.

And now I’ve landed on this beach

It takes sixty-five years to reach

As this generation of mine

Is ordered onto life’s front line

The targets of a fusillade

That forces us to think of God

Reluctantly we storm this beach

Advancing to fill up the breach

Created by that fallen corps

Of elders who charged here before

While we enjoyed our middle age

Removed from the fire we now engage

A withering barrage rakes this beach

Its bullets bear the names of each

Of those who set foot on these sands

Old General Calendar now commands

Advancing to a sure defeat

Without the option of retreat

We knew before we hit this beach

The enemy that we besiege

Has ammunition for us all

Who as casualties must fall…

Not one will manage to survive

Nobody leaves this beach alive

For those arriving on this beach

There is no prayer to neither pray nor preach

To beg us off in any tongue

Since we have outlived dying young

And for surviving in exchange

Now face the fire at point blank range

The witness we bear on this beach

Has only one lesson to teach

That here the carnage never stops

As every day another drops

Some classmate, relative or friend

Whose attack comes to an abrupt end

So, on into the breach my peers

Who knows how many weeks or years

Remain till you and I are hit

As we inch onward, bit by bit

We only know our lives will bleach

Eternally out on this beach

poems. This Beach by Oscar Brown Jr.

And now I’ve landed on this beach

It takes sixty-five years to reach

As this generation of mine

Is ordered onto life’s front line

The targets of a fusillade

That forces us to think of God

Reluctantly we storm this beach

Advancing to fill up the breach

Created by that fallen corps

Of elders who charged here before

While we enjoyed our middle age

Removed from the fire we now engage

A withering barrage rakes this beach

Its bullets bear the names of each

Of those who set foot on these sands

Old General Calendar now commands

Advancing to a sure defeat

Without the option of retreat

We knew before we hit this beach

The enemy that we besiege

Has ammunition for us all

Who as casualties must fall…

Not one will manage to survive

Nobody leaves this beach alive

For those arriving on this beach

There is no prayer to neither pray nor preach

To beg us off in any tongue

Since we have outlived dying young

And for surviving in exchange

Now face the fire at point blank range

The witness we bear on this beach

Has only one lesson to teach

That here the carnage never stops

As every day another drops

Some classmate, relative or friend

Whose attack comes to an abrupt end

So on into the breach my peers

Who knows how many weeks or years

Remain till you and I are hit

As we inch onward, bit by bit

We only know our lives will bleach

Eternally out on this beach

POSTED BY CCH092775 AT 10:17 AMPICT0075.jpg

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