Late in life, Gatemouth Brown has returned to the brass and elegance with which he began recording in the late 1940s. His latest reprises much he learned in the interim, stirring the stew of Texas music that forever spices his playing, turning his still considerable skills toward a set of mostly jazz standards. No longer the vocalist he once was (and he was always better with a guitar or a fiddle than a mike), American Music Texas Style allows Brown to focus on leading a ten-piece group, lacing each song with an understated solo or two and trading licks with one of several saxophonists.
Nobody’s going to rewrite jazz history to reconsider his take on Charlie Parker’s “Half Steppin’” or Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, but that’s not the point. Listen, instead, to his version of Percy Mayfield’s “Strange Things Happen”. Brown is a tasteful player, a savvy leader, and a distinctive stylist. Principally known as a bluesman, a tag he despises that comes with a set of limitations he has never embraced, Brown continues to carve a distinct sound out of the good night. And he ain’t goin’ all that gently.