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Album Review

Blues singer Walter Brown had a vocal delivery somewhere between Rubberlegs Williams and Joe Turner. Although his alcoholism and addiction to both narcotics and amphetamines resulted in a break with Jay McShann in 1943, by 1947 Brown was back in the recording studio accompanied by the Jay McShann Quartet — with Seeward Evans on tenor sax, bassist Percy Gabriel, and legendary Kansas City drummer Jesse Price — waxing four sides for the Mercury label in Houston, TX. Interestingly, Brown's comparatively sensitive voicings on "Just Thinkin'" sound a lot like McShann's own beautiful vocal style that was destined to flourish decades later. Brown's next four sessions took place in Kansas City, where Dave Dexter of Capitol Records sought to cash in on the developing demand for blues-based dance music. Eight sides recorded in April of 1949 feature tasty solos by tenor saxophonist Freddy Culliver and smooth lines from Jimmy Walker's electric guitar. Incredibly, both the humorous "Work Don't Bother Me" and the Wynonie Harris-styled "Play the Blues" were rejected by Capitol. "Supressin' the Blues" is a sequel to Brown's original hit of 1941, "Confessin' the Blues," on the heels of a second version recorded for Queen Records in 1946. The plot thickens as Brown's next recording date — Halloween 1949 — found him backed by Jay McShann's Kaycee Stompers, with John Jackson blowing alto sax, Harold Ashby on tenor, and Bob Williams holding down the baritone. This is great R&B-inflected jazz, full of Walter Brown's own brand of musical mustard and vinegar. McShann stuck with Brown right through to the end of this singer's rocky recording career. The pianist anchored a quintet on Brown's last date for Capitol — November 1, 1949 — with the formidable tenor saxophonist Ben Webster strutting his stuff. Walter Brown's last two recordings were made in Houston sometime during the year 1951 and issued on the Peacock label. There are plenty of anecdotes about this singer's turbulent life after he stopped making records, including getting busted in New Orleans with a sizeable load of reefer in his station wagon, and later running his own nightclub in Lawton, OK. Walter Brown passed away in June of 1956, just weeks short of his 40th birthday, a victim of alcohol, heroin, and Benzedrine.


Born: August, 1917 in Dallas, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s

Blues singer Walter Brown fronted the roaring Jay McShann Orchestra (which included young alto saxist Charlie Parker) in 1941, when the roaring Kansas City aggregation cut their classic "Confessin' The Blues" and "Hootie Blues" for Decca. The Dallas native remained with...
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1947-1951, Walter Brown
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