At the end of 1955, Sonny Rollins replaced Harold Land as the saxophonist in the Brown-Roach quintet. Rollin’s style proved a perfect fit for the group’s equilibry betwen fast and slow tunes...
Reuniting with Larry Mizell, the man behind his last three LPs, Donald Byrd continues to explore contemporary soul, funk, and R&B with Places and Spaces. In fact, the record sounds more urban than its predecessor, which often played like a Hollywood version of the inner city. Keeping the Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Sly Stone influences of Street Lady, Places and Spaces adds elements of Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Stevie Wonder, which immediately makes the album funkier and more soulful. Boasting sweeping string arrangements, sultry rhythm guitars, rubbery bass, murmuring flügelhorns, and punchy horn charts, the music falls halfway between the cinematic neo-funk of Street Lady and the proto-disco soul of Earth, Wind & Fire. Also, the title Places and Spaces does mean something – there are more open spaces within the music, which automatically makes it funkier. Of course, it also means that there isn't much of interest on Places and Spaces for jazz purists, but the album would appeal to most fans of Philly soul, lite funk, and proto-disco.
Great work from John Lee and Gerry Brown – a pair of fusion stalwarts who added key help to a number of classic 70s sessions for other artists – and got to make a rare few albums like this on their own! Lee's on bass and Brown's on drums, and the pair are in perfect time throughout – working with Skip Drinkwater production, which helps them find even more focus than before, and shake off some of the more jamming aspects of their rock-fusion performances with others – a move that helps them come up with a wonderfully soulful sound in the process – very much in the best Drinkwater soul jazz style of the time!
Pianist, composer, teacher, band leader and arranger, Donald Brown is a beam of bright talent on today’s jazz scene. His lyrical, original music has found favor among many masterful contemporary players. His recordings on Sunnyside (“Early Bird”, 1987), Jazz City (“The Sweetest Sounds”, 1988) and Muse (“Sources of Inspiration”-1989, “People Music” - 1990, “Cause and Effect” - 1991, “Send One of Your Love” - 1993 and “Car Tunes” -1995) are models of power, tact, taste and innovative beauty.