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Album Review

Premier boogie-woogie pianist Mark Lincoln Braun (aka Mr. B) has released a good handful of recordings as a leader, mainly for local Michigan-based labels. Joybox was independently issued by B in 1998, and is available here as a straight reissue in 2008 on the Megawave label. While expertly paying tribute to his heroes, especially Vernon Harrison (aka Boogie Woogie Red), the pianist stretches out into modern mainstream jazz forms during his solos and improvisations. With bassist Paul Keller and drummer Pete Siers, he has the rhythmic tools to vault the balance beam and effectively straddle the line between blues and jazz. Mr. B, at his core a get-down player, leads off taking no pitches on "Rockin' with Red" in a feverishly hot mood. "Joybox Rocks" and "The Ray" are the most straightforward tracks, and "Cornell Street" is utterly bouncy. Church music is never far removed from B's brain, especially on the longish gospel-tinged "Circle Blues" and the spiritual-to-hard-swing and slightly country-shaded "My Sunday Best," echoing classic blues-jazz splitters Junior Mance and Ray Bryant. The Ray Charles style also fits in well during the bright and fleet "Hallelujah Train," with handclaps, while his happiest song is the last one, "Hillbilly Holiday," with added banjos and washboard. A surprising out of the box tune is "Deep Excavation," with its deeply ruminating single-chord two-phrase base, dedicated to Horace Silver but also reminiscent of Randy Weston. A tribute to legendary pianist and old Comiskey Park groundskeeper Jimmy Yancey (B was also a semi-pro baseball pitcher), "White Sox" is a gem, and as faithful a tribute to any masterful stride/boogie icon as there can be. Joybox contains no filler, no weak spots, and no marginal effort or lack of commitment from these three thoroughly professional musicians. If you love boogie-woogie and beyond played with heart, conviction, and soul, best not pass on this. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: Flint, MI

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s

A superior blues and boogie-woogie pianist, Mr. B. (aka Mark Braun) has recorded several excellent sets that find him revitalizing the vintage style. He started playing piano when he was 15 and, although he had heard much of the pop and rock music of the era, when his father brought home a record by Jimmy Yancey, it convinced him of the musical path he should take. Braun was fortunate enough to visit Chicago on several occasions, seeing, talking to and drawing inspiration from Little Brother Montgomery,...
Full Bio
Joybox, Mr. B
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Blues, Music, Jazz
  • Released: Jun 09, 2009

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