(Detroit Opera House, Detroit, MI - Nov. 12th, 2002)
As Alexander Zonjic finishes introducing the main act, the house lights dim, and the packed forum of smartly dressed, well-groomed, completely enthralled couples watch as their three musical musketeers - Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum & Norman Brown, now known collectively as BWB - come out onto the stage, one after the other.
After a quick jam session to warm both themselves and the audience up, the talented jazz trio break into their first real song of the night, 'Car Wash 2000.' All three individualists get their personal time in the spotlight, but this song belonged to the extreme trumpet power of the great Rick Braun.
Dressed smartly, yet noticeably still stylishly casual - their back-drop nothing more than some Greek-looking fake architecture lit by a flourish of green, red, blue and yellow lights - BWB were in good company with regard their own so-called backing band. 'Ruby Baby', from the new album Groovin'For You, entitled 'Ascension' - which also tonight featured the voice of Norman Brown on vocals !
Next up was their song to "celebrate the value of a great woman," 'A Woman's Worth' from the exquisite Alicia Keys and after a quick introduction of the backing band, they marched straight into the title track from Norman Brown's latest solo album, Just Chillin'
As the night progressed it was plainly obvious - too painfully obvious at times - that the trio were so in love with their craft that they didn't care if the songs lasted 7-8 minutes a time ! Unfortunately with jazz, songs without lyrics can easily blend together after a while which is what kinda happened midway through this near two hour show. But, once over that murky speed bump, they came out the other side in style with humor attached for good measure also. As Kirk introduced the Radicals song, 'Groovin', he quipped that he should also mention that the band had a new movie coming out .... called '7 Mile'! He added that it starred Alexander Zonjin and that his nickname was now 'A & A' !
Then it was the turn - after much audience baying - for the veteran jazz/funk bassist Michael Manson to be invited to front stage. Promoting his very own CD, he played the funky title track 'Bottom Line' to the hyper crowd. Manson played his bass lines thick and hard, and surrounded by a sea of trumpet and sax, the beats just enraptured the entire auditorium - and deservedly so.
As the show neared its climax, both D'Angelo's 'Brown Sugar' and Parliament's 'Up For The Down Stroke' were brought out before the curtain finally came down on what one leaving audience member defined as quite possibly, the 'best night of my life' !
Reviewed by Russell A. Trunk