OSCAR BROWN JR. / “Brown Baby”

It was the early, early sixties. Early one morning I saw Oscar Brown Jr. on the Today Show promoting “Kicks And Company,” a musical he had written that he was trying to get produced on Broadway. The show never made it that far but Brown got my attention, plus I was not the only person who noticed. oscar brown 02.jpg Shortly thereafter he released Sin & Soul which in short order became one of the all-time classic jazz vocal albums. The album has subsequently been re-issued with five extra tracks taken from a now out of print album. oscar brown 06.jpg It’s not just the quality of Oscar’s vocal work that makes this a classic album. Not only did Oscar write all the lyrics, except for five of the seventeen tracks, Oscar also wrote the music for all seventeen songs. It’s a very, very impressive feat. No other vocal jazz album matches from a compositional stand point. Whether fitting lyrics to pre-existing jazz standards, or up-dating folk songs, or composing contemporary mini-portraits Oscar Brown Jr. had no peer. oscar brown 09.jpg Later in the seventies I was blessed to check out his musical “Joy” that had a San Francisco run featuring his wife Judy Pace and Brazilian musician Sivuca. In the eighties I would encounter Mr. Brown at conferences in his hometown of Chicago. One particularly memorable occasion was a talk he gave on the hardships of maintaining one’s integrity in the hard, hard effort to produced meaningful music while working in the music industry. oscar brown 07.jpg By the end of his presentation he was literally crying—and he was not alone. Many of us in the audience had tears in our eyes as he laid out the terrible costs extracted—he wasn’t asking for pity nor sympathy. He was just saying… just quietly telling us the terrible truths of his life experience. It’s rough but he never gave up. Never. At another time perhaps I’ll go further into the Oscar Brown Jr. story but for now, I’d just like to share with you a double handful of tracks from one of the true classic jazz vocal albums. This is essential music. Essential. Don’t just enjoy this music—embrace it. —Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, October 20th, 2008 at 12:44 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “OSCAR BROWN JR. / “Brown Baby””

Tuta Says:
October 21st, 2008 at 6:57 am


I normally don’t like vocal jazz, so I was just gonna skip this week, but for whatever reason I said ‘What the hell.’ and cut the jukebox on. Well, lo and behold I *really* dug that Oscar Brown music, shoot I even remembered a couple of them cuts from hearing them as a child. I don’t know if it’s because he kept his songs short, sweet and to the point – or if it’s because he told a lil’ story in his songs, but I definitely enjoyed his music.

…another eye opened up.

The Custodian Says:
October 26th, 2008 at 11:45 am

I was born in the Caribbean and as I listen to Oscar brown, I am reminded of Harry Belafonty–Island In The Sun “Mary’s Boy Child.”
Thank you for giving me the original voice! Oscar Brown!

LInda Kosut Says:
November 27th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

I am a huge fan of OBJ’s and for the past 2 years have been touring the country performing my tribute show to this great talent. My CD, “Long As You’re Living – the songs & poetry of Oscar Brown Jr.” received great reviews and awards from Jazz Times to the Bistro Awards. I am honored to sing his music and tell his story.

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