Release date: May 20, 2021
Label: Space Time Records
African Ripples, the long-awaited new album by multi-faceted pianist, composer and arranger Keith Brown, introduces a new iteration of the Keith Brown trio now anchored by bassist Dezron Douglas and rotating drummers Darrell Green and Terron “Tank” Gully. Augmenting the mix is an abundance of notable special guests including trumpeter Russell Gunn, saxophonist Anthony Ware, vocalist Melanie Charles, vocalist Camille Thurman, vocalist Tamara Brown, spoken word artist Cyrus Aaron, and percussionist Nêgah Santos.
After appearing on a number of universally acclaimed jazz recordings last year, including those by Jazzmeia Horn, Charles Tolliver, and Gregory Tardy, Keith Brown fulfills a long-held artistic vision on African Ripples. “The music of African Ripples was composed and collected to convey my personal experiences through Black music and how it has rippled out in so many different directions,” says Brown. “These ripples serve to bring to light our different relationships and connections and different variations of the same impactful shared experiences. This music has always been an extension of how we express ourselves within these relationships.”
Recorded in November of last year at Samurai Hotel Studios in Queens NY, African Ripples features innovative original compositions by Brown as well as several arrangements of tunes by such luminaries as Fats Waller and Stevie Wonder. Though the trio’s current configuration is new, the musicians on African Ripples have long-standing musical relationships. Terreon Gully is a longtime collaborator of Brown’s, having produced and performed on his previous album The Journey. On Darrell Green, Brown shares that “[he] was one of the first drummers I met on the scene and has become one of my favorite drummers,” and on Dezron Douglas, he says: “anyone familiar with Dezron’s playing knows how deep his groove is but also how free he allows the music to be as well,” adding, “all these musicians provide exactly what I need to make the music speak.”
African Ripples begins with the deeply soulful “African Ripples Epigraph” featuring the evocative spoken word of Cyrus Aaron. Supple horn refrains cascade in between Aaron’s poignant words, underscored by Dezron Douglas’ deep groove and Brown’s powerful pianistic musings. “512 Arkansas St” provides the listener with some insight on the artist’s upbringing in Knoxville, Tennessee. Dedicated to the composer’s extended family, the song conjures the jubilance of family gatherings and features stunning improvisation by Brown as well as Russell Gunn and Anthony Ware.
“Queen” is dedicated to Brown’s wife Tamara and the musical inspiration for the composition comes from a painting by Nigerian-born artist Uzo Egonu entitled ‘Guinean Girl’. The beauty and intensity of the piano is matched by the strength of Camille Thurman’s soaring vocals.“Prayer For My Nephews” is a composition written by Brown for his nephews, who are 19 and 4 years old. Featuring the words of Cyrus Aaron, the song is filled with affirmations and prayer. Brown notes “growing up as young black men, these words are important to hear, and it can also be uplifting to anyone at any age that needs a word of encouragement.”
“Truth and Comfort” is a song about personal growth and re-education. The composer notes: “Everyone is raised in families and communities that can imprint ideas and beliefs that become a part of who we are. However, I think it is everyone’s responsibility to grow beyond the thoughts and beliefs that make them comfortable and see all the world’s many possibilities. This is something that some people have already done in their lives, so they’ll be able to relate to the experience, and for those who have not, maybe it will be an opportunity for them to think and see where they can open up themselves to truths beyond their comfort level.” The trio displays its stellar interplay on this nuanced track, and Brown offers audiences impassioned improvisation, beautifully supported by Terreon Gully and Dezron Douglas.
With the express purpose of fostering connection and positivity, African Ripples takes listeners on a journey throughout the life of the composer and offers a musical interpretation of many experiences that we all share in common – communion, hope, fear, nostalgia, grief and love. ‘My hope is that the listener will find enjoyment in the sounds, rhythms, harmonies, and melodies familiar to them and the ones that may be unfamiliar,” asserts Brown. “I hope that the energy and soul we put into this recording give them energy and uplift the soul.”
MORE ABOUT KEITH BROWN
Memphis-born, Knoxville-raised and New York-based Keith Brown is one of the most in-demand pianists on the contemporary jazz scene. Since he began playing jazz at the age of 18, Brown has performed and recorded with a who’s-who of jazz luminaries. He currently tours as the pianist for Charles Tolliver and Jazzmeia Horn and has shared the stage with great jazz artists such as Camille Thurman & The Darrell Green Trio, Dezron Douglas, Sherman Irby, Steve Slagle, Terreon Gully, Kenneth Whalum III, David Weiss, Mike Clark, Bill Saxton, Joe Farnsworth, Greg Tardy, John Clayton, Benny Golson, and Bobby Watson to name a few.
African Ripples is Brown’s third release as a leader, following the release of The Journey, in 2015 and Sweet and Lovely, in 2011. Brown appears on a number of highly acclaimed recent recordings including Jazzmeia Horn’s Where We Are, Charles Tolliver’s Connect, Janinah Burnett’s Love The Color of Your Butterfly, and Gregory Tardy’s If Time Could Stand Still.
"That’s why for an album with seemingly disparate individual components, the whole of African Ripples is surprisingly cohesive, rippling out in all directions but true to its core." Read this article here.
"The source is dropping the positive soul and energy into the music, here and there, creating beautiful waves of forms and shapes. This album takes you on a very pleasant journey, with many layers to explore. It is strongly grounded in the cheerfulness of Fats Waller yet reminds the kind of cosmic depth you could find on Coltrane‘s Africa/Brass or Olé albums. And this mix is what makes the originality of Keith Brown’s own music so very good." Read this entire review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Each of Keith Brown’s arrangements and compositions surprises me in lovely ways, like opening presents on Christmas morning; you never know what you’ll get, but it’s always sweet. I will be listening to this album time and time again." Read this entire review here.
“These ripples serve to bring to light our different relationships and connections and different variations of the same impactful shared experiences. This music has always been an extension of how we express ourselves within these relationships.” Read this article here.
"Keith Brown shows an undeniable personality." Read the full review in the July 2021 issue of Jazz Magazine.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"This is an album that you may need to spend some time with to fully appreciate, but as I’m discovering is well worth it." Read the review here.
"On his third album as a leader, Brown mines his personal history with Black music and his own life journey to send ripples of positivity that light our way to redemption." Read the 4 star review here.
"African Ripples by Keith Brown is the beautiful confirmation of a jazz piano personality capable of extending and enriching the already long history of jazz." Read the full review in French here.