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Live Every Minute

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Album Review

Oscar Brown, Jr. was 71 when, in June 1998, the veteran jazz vocalist traveled to Hamburg, Germany and recorded Live Every Minute for Minor Music, a German label. By that age, some singers will lose a lot of their vocal power — Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald are three examples of once-great singers whose voices had deteriorated considerably by the time they reached their late sixties or early seventies. On the other hand, Carmen McRae and Jimmy Scott still sounded great at 70; so it varies from singer to singer. Thankfully, Brown's voice is holding up nicely on Live Every Minute, which finds him revisiting the lyrics that he wrote for Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere," Stanley Turrentine's "Long As You're Living, " and Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" in his younger days. These 1998 versions aren't definitive, but they're enjoyably swinging — and they demonstrate that Brown still had a lot of soul at 71. Although the Chicago native is famous for writing lyrics to familiar bop tunes that started out as instrumentals, most of the melodies that he embraces on this CD are his own — melodies that range from playfully funky ("Mr. Kicks") to reflective ("It's October") to melancholy ("World Full of Gray"). The latter is about growing older and coming to the realization that the world usually isn't black and white but rather, a shade of gray. So why is the song melancholy? Because seeing two sides of the story (political, romantic, or whatever) when you're 35 or 40 is tougher, harder, and more challenging than seeing things in black and white when you're 19 and mindlessly idealistic; ignorance is bliss, after all. Live Every Minute isn't among Brown's essential releases, but it's a solid, pleasing effort that the singer's diehard fans will appreciate.


Born: 10 October 1926 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although rooted in jazz, singer, poet, and activist Oscar Brown, Jr. defied musical categorization throughout his long and eclectic career -- a forerunner of the political consciousness that would become predominant in soul, funk, and hip-hop in the decades to follow, his efforts to exact social change spread across the arts and even into government, spurring two unsuccessful but memorable campaigns for office. Born on Chicago's South Side on October 10, 1926, Brown was the son of a successful attorney...
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Live Every Minute, Oscar Brown, Jr.
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