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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Patti Bown Plays Big Piano


Waltz De Funk

Patti Bown Plays Big Piano
With Joe Benjamin, Bass & Ed Shaughnessy, Drums
Columbia CL 1379

From the back cover: One of the most vocal and enthusiastic heralds of this new talent was arranger Quincy Jones, also from Seattle. It was Quincy, given the opportunity of assembling his own band for the Harold Arlen Show, Free And Easy, who finally brought Patti to New York late in 1959 to work as pianist with his band. It was, however, a discerning man about records named George Painkin who brought an acetate test record of Patti's playing to Columbia. The impact on one hearing was powerful and convincing. She was signed on the spot.

Born in Seattle on July 26, 1931, Patti Bown began playing by ear before she was three years old. Neither of her parents had musical training although her mother was able to play simple blues and children's songs at family gatherings. Amazingly enough, Patti and her four sisters were all born with perfect pitch.

Augustus Bown, Patti's father, was a longshoreman and her mother, Edith Cahill Bown, a hairdresser. Both were determined that their children should receive the very best education possible, and their history was one of continual poverty, the five Brown girls and their one brother were denied nothing in the way of cultural opportunities.

Patti's first formal music lessons began when she was six – on a second hand upright bought by her father for all of ten dollars. Her studies were continued in elementary and high schools and then, with the aid of music scholarships at Seattle University, the University of Washington and the Cornish School of Fine Arts. In addition, a great deal of study with books on harmony and composition was patiently undertaken.

The concert stage was the goal, not only for Patti, but for her sister Edith, also an accomplished musician. The sisters, in fact, had dreams of working together as duo-pianists.

Patti's contacts with jazz were the usual ones that any urban Negro youngster might have had. She heard her share of gospel songs and blues as a child, and then, with her contemporaries, grew up with the music of Basie, Ellington and, in the Forties, of Parker, Gillespie and the other modernists on the radio and the phonograph. A closer alliance to jazz came with her sister Edith's marriage to Jerry Valentine, an arranger who has written for Miles Davis, Art Blakey and other prominent bands and vocalists.

Opportunities of launching a concert career are limited, and Patti engaged in several non-musical jobs while waiting for her chance, among them washing windows, typing  and working as a stock clerk in a department store.

All the while, however, she was also playing jazz and developing her own approach to the piano – and "going to bed and walking up thinking about music." Patti sees the piano as a lifetime challenge and has some very definite ideas about herself and her playing. She believes in using the whole piano and being, both in personality and appearance, positive, individual and strong. Her playing has a definiteness, assurance, and strength that accurately reflect who and what she is.

Patti has what jazz magician call "time." The beat is always there – not vaguely implied, it's explicitly there to be heard and felt. And the listener will hear and feel that beat on every track of this record, in the ballads, and especially in the four Brown original blues and gospel-based compositions.

One of those compositions is called "Head-Shakin'", a pretty descriptive title not only for the piece itself,  but for this entire collection. Only it doesn't quite go far enough. This record not only contains head-shaking' music but foot-tapping', finger-snappin', happy, melodic jazz as well.

Nothin' But The Truth
It Might As Well Be Spring
Waltz De Funk
I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair
Head Shakin'
G'won Train
Sunshine Cake
Give Me The Simple Life
I Didn't Know What Time It Was
Always True To You In My Fashion

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