When it comes to music, no genre has declared its independence as long and loudly as rock.
When it comes to music, no genre has declared its independence as long and loudly as rock. And at the forefront of that freedom movement has been the lead guitarist, that player who has defied pop conventions to reshape both the music and the instrument.
But, in its own way, rock can be very limiting, Norman Brown said. The veteran contemporary jazz guitarist got his start playing in Kansas City, Mo., rock bands and drew as much early influence from Jimi Hendrix as he did Wes Montgomery.
"The thing about (rock) is that you can't go outside that particular style, so to speak," Brown said. "If I'm playing Jimi-type stuff (and shift to jazz), I'm going to lose the audience and the whole feel of it. But if I'm playing jazz, I can throw the Jimi in there."
Audiences, then, shouldn't be surprised to hear snatches of "Crosstown Traffic" or "The Wind Cries Mary" when Brown performs Saturday at the Bob Hope Theatre.
The Stockton date comes at a busy time in Brown's career. Not only is he on the road with his band promoting his new Peak Records release, "Stay With Me," but he's also scheduled to headline his annual Summer Storm tour with Peabo Bryson, Marion Meadows and Jeff Lorber. In addition, Brown hosts a program on the Web's fledgling Smooth Jazz Network.
In an interview, Brown sounded unmistakably glad to be so busy. With good reason, too, as "Stay With Me's" release was delayed a year by health problems.
"I signed with Peak last year," Brown said. "Then I got hit with migraine headaches, clusters of them. I missed gigs and I couldn't record."
He sought out doctors only to be told that the problem was stress. Brown had been touring heavily since the 2004 release of "Just Chillin'" and not living the healthiest lifestyle on the road. It was on a tour of Japan, however, that he found the solution.
"I had dehydrated my body and some kind of toxin got in," Brown said. "I was dirty on the inside."
A Japanese doctor prescribed a 10-day cleansing fast, during which Brown consumed nothing but a mix of water and lemon juice. His health quickly improved and he began work on "Stay With Me."
The disc is predictably upbeat, and features plenty of Brown's signature guitar. Guest artists include long-time friend Brian McKnight and fellow contemporary jazz stars Rick Braun and Kirk Whalum.
The album also features a number of vocal tracks, the desire and ability to sing being something that distinguishes Brown from many other lead guitarists, both in contemporary jazz and pop. The singing, he said, stems from his desire to be a showman, not merely a player.
"At first, I just wanted to be a musician," he recalled. "But as I performed, there was an energy I couldn't contain. It was more than just playing the guitar. I wanted to find out what else I did."
Contact LENS Editor Brian McCoy at (209) 546-8293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.