Charles Brown: I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)


I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)


Charles Brown (vocals, piano)


These Blues (Verve 314 523 022-2)

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Charles Brown (vocals, piano).

Composed by Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster


Recorded: San Francisco, CA, Jan. 6 & 7, 1994


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Brown was one of the originators of the West Coast lounge or club blues style that was patterned after Nat Cole, but bluesier and certainly sadder and even a bit mournful at times. With his smooth, stretched-out vocal phrasing and hip, refined piano, Brown could really get under your skin. After a string of hits from the mid '40's to the early '50's, rock n' roll put Brown's mellow delivery on the back burner. Thanks to the PBS documentary All That Rhythm and Those Blues, and the encouragement and support of Bonnie Raitt and guitarist Danny Caron, Brown's career finally saw a major revivial in the "90's, resulting in numerous recordings and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation prior to his death in 1999. The best thing about many of his later albums may have been that they put an equal spotlight on his underrated, or certainly underappreciated, skill as a pianist.

For example, Brown recorded eye-opening solo piano versions of "Round Midnight" and "One Mint Julep" on a 1992 release (Blues and Other Love Songs), and this fascinating vocal-piano rendition of "I Got It Bad" on his 1994 These Blues. Brown's brief intro more than hints at a phrase from Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare." He then plays the theme with a blues-drenched sound and a semi-stride tempo. His attack, voicings, and overall emotional compass during his solo recall Mary Lou Williams as much as anyone. When Brown finally starts to sing, it's apparent that the resigned lyrics fit his sly, downcast vocal expressiveness to a tee. From this point on, his vocalizing alternates with more upbeat piano breaks (similar in mood to his comping), presenting an ingratiating contrast. Brown's purred handling of the words "My gal and me / we gin some / embrace some / and we sin some" is unbeatable, but then so is his eloquent keyboard work. If he'd never sung a note in his life, the classically trained Brown could still have easily succeeded as just a jazz/blues pianist.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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