Eleven years ago guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and trumpeter Rick Braun came together to create the album, Groovin’, and the “supergroup” BWB. The group has once again joined forces to release Human Nature, a tribute to the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.
The album becomes available on June 18, 2013 and is supported with a tour around the country that extends into the end of the year (this is according to their calendar at the time of writing, the tour may go on longer). The musicians on the album in addition to Brown, Whalum and Braun include Sheléa on vocals, John Stoddart on keys, Braylon Lacey on bass, Khari Parker on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, and Ralph Lofton on organ.
Human Nature includes tracks that span from Jackson’s early days as part of the Jackson Five (Shake Your Body, I’ll Be There, Who’s Lovin You) to his prolific career as a solo artist (Human Nature, Beat It, She’s Out of My Life, The Way You Make Me Feel, I Can’t Help It, Billie Jean, Man in the Mirror, and Another Part of Me).
The project was the brainchild of trumpeter Rick Braun, and the album Human Nature grew from there. It was merely a matter of picking songs from Jackson’s catalog, and with all his fantastic songs, it was certainly no easy feat. BWB, however, is not the first to pay tribute to the legendary Michael Jackson. “You take Miles Davis,” Whalum says, “for him to record a Michael Jackson song [like ‘Human Nature’] says something. It’s a validation. We’re not the first musicians to take a serious approach to Michael’s music. But for us it’s an honor because the feeling of the music communicates so beautifully. That’s ultimately what music is supposed to be about.”
BWB’s versions of Michael Jackson’s songs each differ significantly from the original versions. The title track, “Human Nature,” is slower than the original and the arrangement is sparse in comparison while “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” takes on a Latin Vibe. Rick Braun arranged “Beat It” with a reggae beat, Whalum and Stoddart changed the meter on “I Can’t Help It,” and “Who’s Lovin’ You” is adapted to a more bluesy feel.
Human Nature is a diverse collection of Jackson’s music performed by three of the most popular artists on the contemporary jazz scene – Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun and Norman Brown.
A little bit more about each of the artists:
Saxophonist Kirk Whalum grew up in Memphis Tennessee where the local music scene played a big part in influencing his performance and style as an artist. He attended Texas Southern University in Houston where he began his career as a performer. Throughout his career he has had the opportunity to perform and record with artist such as Quincy Jones, Barbara Streisand, and Whitney Houston. He was awarded a Grammy in 2011 for “Best Gospel Song.” He has over twenty albums as a solo artist.
Rick Braun hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania and is a graduate from the Eastman School of Music. He has a diverse musical background having performed with fusion group Auracle, written “Here With Me” for REO Speedwagon, and over 15 records as a solo artist in the jazz and smooth genres.
Norman Brown was born in Louisiana but raised in Kansas City where he picked up the guitar at the age of 8. After high school, Brown moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. He released his first album in 1992 and then followed it with a gold-certified album in 1996. In 2002 he received a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental album for the album Just Chillin’.
Title: Human Nature
Artist: BWB feat. Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown
Date: June 18, 2013
Genre: Smooth Jazz, Pop
Label: Heads Up
01 Another Part of Me
02 Billie Jean
03 Human Nature
04 Beat It
05 Who’s Lovin’ You
06 She’s Out of My Life
07 Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)
08 The Way You Make Me Feel
09 I Can’t Help It
10 I’ll Be There
11 Man in the Mirror