Jefrey Leighton Brown: Dreams
Jaffe Records

Jefrey Leighton Brown, Evolutionary Jass Band leader and Portland music community fixture, follows up last year's Change Has Got To Come! with the vinyl release Dreams, the first on his own Jaffe Records. It's a solo recording in the truest sense of the word with Brown heard alone at the Michigan Avenue Social Club (September, 2007) on side one and at Valentines (November, 2006) on the second. Though he weaned himself away from his first instrument, the electric guitar, to develop into an accomplished saxophone player, Dreams finds Brown donning diverse instrumental personae and tackling multiple styles too.

The twenty-four-minute opening side alternates between Eastern-styled meditations and bluesy jazz settings. “Welcome” establishes a mood of contemplative invocation with a percussion intro of bells and gongs, after which Brown pulls out his tenor sax for “Jaffee,” a smoky meditation whose limber runs can't hide the mournful heart beating at the tune's center. “The Fool” is dominated by the baritone's greasy honk while the tenor ballad “Guardian Angel” features a vibrato so pronounced in some moments it calls to mind Ben Webster's breathy tone. The side ends with two drones: “Prayer for Earth,” which features the undulating cry of what sounds like a soprano sax (no instrumentation's listed on the sleeve) in full snake-charmer mode; and the closing guitar-based piece “The Conversation.” The second side is wholly dedicated to “Song For Benoit,” a twenty-minute setting that opens with intense, sometimes psychedelic electric guitar playing that burns for a full thirteen minutes before ceding the stage to a tenor sax solo performed in a bold, braying style that'd do David Murray proud. In general, Brown's playing calls to mind the extemporaneous explorations of the prototypical ‘60s free jazz player.

It's always great to hear a saxophonist of Brown's ilk performing in a band context but it's also nice to hear him alone with the immediacy and spontaneity of his playing untethered by a rhythm section. Fans of his work also will want to keep an eye out for a new collection by the Evolutionary Jass Band scheduled to appear on Jaffee this fall.

September 2008