Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown has had a distinguished career spanning more than a half-century (and he shows no sign of stopping). Although many regard him strictly as a bluesman, Brown is a multifaceted performer, with musical links and nods to blues, jazz, swing, country, old-time, and Cajun. The New York Times calls this multi-instrumentalist "â¦an American master." Over the years Brown has been a regular fixture on Houston television, and in the 1970s he recorded with country guitarist Roy Clark. His accolades include a 1982 Grammy, countless WC Handy awards, and the 1998 Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award. His HighTone debut marks his arrival at the appropriate musical home, a label renowned for releasing music that combines and crosses genres.
Eclectic octogenarian Brown glides through this personalized and primarily instrumental overview of American music classics in his usual fine fashion. Brown's blues base is never in doubt as he balances his jazz-guitarist and country-fiddler personas in a wide-ranging assortment of songs from the Duke Ellington
standard "Satin Doll" to the country ballad "Tennessee Blues." An energetic, horn-powered rendition of Jay McShann
's "Jumpin' the Blues" features some of Brown's jazziest guitar work while a creative reconfiguration of "Unchained Melody," complete with flute solos and gear-shifting change of tempo, is the recording's most intriguing idea. Brown contributes three of his own songs, including the vocal numbers "For Now So Long" and "The Drifter," but it's his jazzy renditions of songs like Fletcher Henderson
's sublime "Soft Wind" and Joe Zawinul
's funk-tinged "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" that best demonstrate his delightfully democratic musical universe. Timeless
is by no means a deep blues recording, but it is a "Gatemouth" recording, one that expertly explores all hues of blues and quite a few other stylistic colors as well--a rare and valuable achievement. --Michael Point