The latest CD by the 5 Browns, "Browns in Blue", is a very interesting and enjoyable selection of classical, jazz, and blues music. It shows that they are extremely gifted, well-rounded and versatile young musicians, not only as individual soloists, but as chamber musicians, accompanists and as an ensemble
The CD opens with the famous 18th Variation from Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Instead of a performance in which the soloist is accompanied by a piano reduction of the orchestra, all five pianists have added some interesting enhancements and inner voices including a light and filigree accompaniment at the top of the piano, which produces a magical effect.
In the Aquarium scene from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, Gil Shaham, the celebrated violinist, plays the melody on the violin, while Desirae and Deondra Brown provide the shimmering accompaniment.
It is unusual to hear Debussy's Clair de Lune played by a piano duo. This begins in the same way as the solo version, but when the melody is played the second time, there is a clever accompaniment with a momentary discord that resolves itself, based on the chord progression that follows shortly after. This accompaniment is used in the upper ranges of the keyboard in a similar way to the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody, later in the performance.
The CD includes fine solo performances by Melody Brown (the well known Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118 by Brahms and Godowsky-Saint-Saëns "The Swan") Ryan Brown (Schubert-Liszt Spinning Song, and a Tango by Piazzolla), Desirae Brown ("Embrace You" by Gershwin), Gregory Brown (Nocturne in C minor Opus 48 #1 by Chopin and the jazzy "Aunt Hagar Blues" by Handy/Brymn), Deondrea Brown ("Ich Liebe dich" by Grieg).
The melancholy and song-like Romance from the Suite No 2 for Two Pianos by Rachmaninoff is given a very expressive performance by Desirae and Deondra Brown.
A couple of rarities on the CD include "Reflections on Shenandoah" composed by John Novacek, and the Fantasia on the "Dives and Lazarus" folk song by Vaughan Williams. The opening of the Shenandoah is peaceful and rather reminiscent of music by some French impressionist composers. The middle section is more turbulent and exciting, with hints of American folk music and jazz. The ending is serene, as in the beginning. The main theme in the Vaughan Williams Fantasia is very familiar and British-sounding.
One of the most enjoyable tracks on the CD is a selection from Gershwin's "An American in Paris" in which the five pianists collaborate with trumpet player Chris Botti and provide a most effective accompaniment with an orchestral quality.
The bonus track consists of the song "Everyone Loves Somebody" by Lane/Taylor, in which the 5 Browns provide vocalist Dean Martin with an authentic "oldies" accompaniment.
I highly recommend this CD.
Copyright © 2007, Robert Finley