By Cree McCree | Published August 2021
“Call it magic/ Call it ministry/ Call it music.” The opening epigraph for African Ripples, delivered by spoken-word artist Cyrus Aaron, sets the tone for an album that shines a beacon of hope at the end of a very dark year. “We play on for the living,” as Aaron observes. “Progress can be slowed down but it cannot be stopped.”
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. He also enlists plenty of help. The deep groove of his core trio — with bassist Derzon Douglas and alternating drummers Terreon “Tank” Gully and Darrell Green — serves as a launching pad for an inspired roster of guest artists.
On “Queen,” dedicated to Brown’s wife, Tamara, Camille Thurman’s vocals swoop in like a shooting star that sparks the joyful noise of a heavenly choir. And when Melanie Charles sings she wants to “Come Back As A Flower” in the Stevie Wonder song, her wish blossoms.
Among the most memorable guest turns is “Prayer For My Nephews,” in which Aaron advises young Black men, “Leave nothing unspoken. Raise your voice.” But the heart and soul of “African Ripples,” a song first recorded by Fats Waller in 1934, is the core trio’s intuitive dialogue, steered by Brown’s piano.
“African Ripples Part I” invokes the big-band elegance of Duke Ellington. “Part II” gives birth to the cool, while the playful “118th & 8th” bursts with the street beats of Saturday night.
African Ripples: African Ripples Epigraph; Truth And Comfort; NAFID; Just You, Just Me; 512 Arkansas St.; African Ripples Part I; African Ripples Part II; Queen; Come Back As A Flower; 118th & 8th; What’s Left Behind; Song Of Samson; Eye 2 Eye With The Sun; Prayer For My Nephews; African Ripples. (71:18)
Personnel: Keith Brown, piano, Rhodes, synths; Dezron Douglas, acoustic and electric bass; Darrell Green (6–8, 13), Terreon “Tank” Gully (except tracks 6–8, 13), drums.
Ordering Info: keithbrownpiano.com