Liner notes for Cameron Brown and the Hear & Now: Here and How! Volume 2! (OmniTone 15218)
It's hard to believe that it took 40 years for Cameron Brown to release his first recording as a leader. After working and recording with Don Cherry, George Adams, Don Pullen, Archie Shepp, Dewey Redman, Sheila Jordan, and Joe Lovano, that long-awaited release appeared on OmniTone in 2003, Cameron Brown and the Hear & Now: Here and How! (OmniTone 15205).
Culled from live recordings made by the late David Baker of a concert tour the Hear & Now made in Belgium in 1997, there was simply too much good music for one CD to hold and, thus, you have before you Here and How! Volume 2! Given H&N's personnel: long-time collaborator Sheila Jordan, trumpeter Dave Ballou, drummer Leon Parker, and saxophonist Dewey Redman (heard on volume one), this recording — like its predecessor — is bursting at the seams with spine-tingling virtuosity, undaunted adventurousness, and contagious Bohemian joie de vivre that's not often heard today.
Fortunately Here and How! Volume 2! vividly captures more of the rare groove and effervescent "sense of happening" of H&N's Belgian concerts. The concerts were organized and sponsored by Jazz'Halo, a jazz arts organization near Bruge, run by Jos Demol, that describes itself as "a bunch of people who are mad about good music, modern jazz, and improvised music in particular.'
The 40-year gestation period for these recordings witnessed dramatic cultural changes that reflected themselves in revolutionary changes of "jazz music,' especially in the '60s and '70s. Cam's understated discernment and quick wit bore witness to both, through the diversity of his early life experiences in the US and abroad and through his musical collaborations with pioneers of new improvised music. They sought to both extend the tradition and transcend any lingering, confining notions of what "jazz' should or shouldn't be.
Sheila Jordan, one of those innovators, was one of the first jazz artists to redefine the role of "vocalist' beyond "a singer of lyrics' (with, possibly, some cutesy oo-shoobie-doo-wah scat thrown to be "hep') to one of more unfettered vocalizing like another horn in the band.
"I wanted the human voice that could play many roles,' explains Cameron about his choice of Sheila for the Hear & Now. "To work with somebody like Sheila, who literally goes back to Bird, has tremendous meaning for me: that we're trying, in some living way, to preserve the feeling of this music.'
Charlie "Yardbird" Parker's certainly alive in this house — in spirit and through his bop anthem "Confirmation" (replete with Sheila's hip lyrics, masterful scatting, and inimitably down-to-earth, Sheila-being-Sheila lead-ins), and so are Sheila's native American roots in "Mourning Song," Cam's late pioneering collaborators in "Lullaby for George, Don, and Dannie," "Soft Seas," and "Double Arc Jake," and even the Great American Songbook in Cole Porter's "You Do Something to Me."
Reveling in the marvelously spirited music contained herein gives us some insight into the unpretentious virtuosity and generousness of heart that makes Cam so respected and loved by musicians and fans. What comes across is Cam's heartfelt dedication to the music; it is his anchor, just like the instrument he plays is often the anchor in jazz bands. For him, making good music — even above leading a band — is first and foremost, and that may explain why it's taken 40 years for this project to emerge.
A special treat of both volumes is the chance to hear Cameron Brown as composer and lyricist. Aptly, it may in the words of "Lullaby for George, Don, and Dannie," which Cam wrote in tribute to others, that we may find an apt description of the modest man-behind-the-music: "Brave and true they struggled, firm and pure and shining. Music is the way they transcended.'