One might assume that bassist Christian McBride's KIND OF BROWN would be a tribute to Ray Brown. In fact, this music bears a strong resemblance to the late-'60s to mid-'70s Blue Note recordings of the legendary Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land quintet. A new discovery in vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Jr., teamed with veteran saxophonist Steve Wilson, the wonderful pianist Eric Reed, and drummer Carl Allen makes McBride's quintet Inside Straight one of the more melodically tuneful and harmonically focused contemporary ensembles now playing. McBride is almost an equal in this company, putting aside his furious note playing for a more democratic role in an extraordinarily balanced small combo. The similarities to the Hutcherson-Land group are unmistakable, from the tick-tock rhythm and melodic line similar to Hutch and Herbie Hancock's classic composition "Blow Up" on "Brother Mister" to the steady swinger "Rainbow Wheel" and "Pursuit of Peace," with its probing basslines. The athletic and quirky "Stick and Move" is hard-charging bop at its best with Reed leading. McBride's role as a leader is more pronounced on "Theme for Kareem," an ultra-tight, very hip tune that has potential standard written all over it.
Unless you've been living in a cave since the late '70s, you have likely heard Jocelyn Brown's voice at one point or another. Brown's immensely power-packed and impassioned voice has been at the fore of several definitive and timeless disco classics, and it has also been present in background roles on numerous others. Short-lived disco groups like Inner Life and Musique hit the upper reaches of the club charts in large part due to Brown's contributions, and she has also had success as a solo performer.