By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN
When I saw Derek Brown back in the good old days when music venues were open – three weeks ago – I was blown away. Not only is he a world-class saxophone player, but he is also a great innovator and performer. He does things with the sax that are seemingly impossible, he does them live without gimmicks or fancy electronics. The result is fun, sometimes moving, often hooky, music. His new album, Fiftyfifty captures that excitement and more.
The name Fiftyfifty has nothing to with the contents of the album. At fifteen songs it is 100% blow-your-socks off music. And it has something for everyone; rap, “America the Beautiful”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, classic saxophone jazz tunes, some Duke Ellington and even Paul Simon gets slipped in. “Fiftyfifty” is 100 percent music exhilaration, named for the tour that took Brown and his wife to all 50 states in a borrowed RV (not sure how they got the RV to Hawaii, but he played there).
In constructing this album, Brown has carefully chosen songs that display the innovations and techniques he has developed with the saxophone over the years, like singing while playing, creating percussion with the horn, including a kick drum and a clave, and moving seamlessly from the lowest to the highest registers of the instrument instantaneously.