"Mr. Jamaica Funk" - Tom Browne, one of the great exponents of jazz-funk, is best known for his smash hit Funkin' For Jamaica. Born in New York in 1954 Browne was something of a musical prodigy, studying piano aged 11 before switching to trumpet and attending New York City's High School of Music and Art. After a passing interest in the classics, Browne discovered jazz after listening to Ornette Coleman while at college. He joined up with trumpeter Roy Eldridge and came to a wider audience with band leader Sonny Fortune. He moved from an initial 'hard-bop'style to a more commercial, groove-based jazz/funk crossover which emerged as a popular genre in the mid to late seventies. Browne signed to the GRP label, for whom he recorded three albums, moving to Arista at the beginning of the eighties.
One of the reasons that Jackson Browne's first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history is that it doesn't sound like a debut. Although only 23, Browne had kicked around the music business for several years, writing and performing as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and as Nico's backup guitarist, among other gigs, while many artists recorded his material. So, if this doesn't sound like someone's first batch of songs, it's not. Browne had developed an unusual use of language, studiedly casual yet full of striking imagery, and a post-apocalyptic viewpoint to go with it. He sang with a calm certainty over spare, discretely placed backup – piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, congas, violin, harmony vocals – that highlighted the songs and always seemed about to disappear. In song after song, Browne described the world as a desert in need of moisture, and this wet/dry dichotomy carried over into much of the imagery.
Jackson Browne faced the nearly insurmountable task of following a masterpiece in making his second album. Having cherry-picked years of songwriting the first time around, he turned to some of his secondary older material, which was still better than most people’s best and, ironically, more accessible — notably such songs as “These Days,” which had been covered six times already, dating back to Nico’s Chelsea Girl album in 1967, and “Take It Easy,” a co-composition with the Eagles’ Glenn Frey that had been a Top 40 hit for the group in 1972.
3 X CD SET FEATURING LIVE BROADCAST RECORDINGS FROM 1972, 1973 & 1976 The three live FM radio broadcasts encompassed in this delightful package come from 1972, 1974 and 1976 respectively - for many, if not most fans, Browne s golden era. Disc one features an in-studio session recorded at and broadcast from the RCA Studios in New York. It took place just eight months after the release of his debut and as is evident that, even at this early stage in his career, Jackson had already matured into a strong live performer and superlative composer. Disc two boasts a show performed at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in early spring 1974, and during which label-mate Linda Ronstadt, who was touring with Browne at the time, joins Jackson for a version of One More Song, a number by Jack Tempchin - the man who composed the lovely Eagles number Peaceful Easy Feeling. Disc three includes the full Soundstage performance Jackson Browne gave for the regular PBS TV series of concert broadcasts in 1976. Recorded at the WTTW studios in Chicago, this concert is augmented by two bonus cuts taken from Browne s appearance on Saturday Night Live the same year.
Like Roy Ayers, Patrice Rushen, George Benson, and George Duke, Tom Browne is a perfect example of a jazz musician who switched to R&B and was lambasted by jazz snobs for it. As jazz's hardcore saw it, the trumpeter was a sellout – a gifted Clifford Brown disciple who was shamelessly wasting his chops playing commercial music. But commercial music isn't necessarily inferior to jazz, and the fact is that much of Browne's soul/funk output was excellent.