Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Brown first picked up a guitar at the age of 8. First inspired by Jimi Hendrix, it was his father’s preference for the sound of Wes Montgomery that set Brown on his stylistic journey. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical career, attending the Musicians Institute where he also taught for a time. While playing with his own group in local clubs, and drawing comparisons to George Benson, Brown was discovered and signed to the fledgling MoJazz label, a division of Motown. He delivered his debut, Just Between Us, and followed with the gold-certified After The Storm and Better Days Ahead.
With critical acclaim and sales behind him, the talented musician made the leap to Warner Bros. and released Celebration, which first teamed him with producer Paul Brown. The follow-up, Just Chillin’, earned Brown much-deserved Grammy recognition in the best pop instrumental category. That project was followed by his release West Coast Coolin‘, where Brown tested out his skills as a vocalist, a move that was embraced by the urban AC radio market and found him topping the charts.
With changes at the Warner Bros. label, Brown was looking to make a change. The Peak Records label, a joint venture with the Concord Music Group, stepped in. Initially concerned that the strides he’d made in the urban market might be discouraged, Brown says that, “Peak was totally in harmony with that artistically. That was the biggest part of the transition for me. I wanted to continue to be Norman Brown and do my jazz and instrumental music, but, at Warner Bros. I had broke through to the urban audience and want to keep reaching out to those fans as well.”
Brown’s audience has been expanding over the years. His compilation The Very Best Of Norman Brown was one of the best-selling smooth jazz albums of 2005 and 2006. Just this January, Brown’s engaging personality led Broadcast Architecture to tap him for its fledgling Smooth Jazz Network as an on-air personality, hosting the 2 to 7 p.m. shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. Moving forward, Brown has already cemented his tour plans, with solo dates this spring and a roster of very special guests for the 2007 edition of his popular Norman Brown’s Summer Storm tour: superstar vocalist and Peak Records label mate Peabo Bryson, saxophonist Marion Meadows and legendary keyboardist Jeff Lorber.
Armed with the knowledge of who he is as an artist, Brown says he spent just four months in the studio making Stay With Me — his shortest recording time on a project ever. Brown adds, “I’m giving fans exactly what they fell in love with me for: The exciting playing, my lyrical writing, my production as well as my new growth as a singer. So I think it’s complete, it’s a nice summary of where I am at this point.”
Norman Brown published with permission of Bettie Grace Miner.