Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - guitar, fiddle, harmonica; Tony Koller - tenor sax; Hank Jones - piano; Rudy Rutherford - clarinet; Bill Pemberton - bass; Oliver Jackson - drums
One of the most versatile musicians to come out of Texas, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was equally adept at blues guitar, Cajun fiddling, harmonica and mandolin. He also had a great capacity for swinging on a jump blues in the vein of his heroes Count Basie, T-Bone Walker and Louis Jordan. At this performance as part of the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, Brown showcased his eclectic nature in an impromptu scenario. The pickup band, which Brown was obviously meeting for the first time on the bandstand, consisted of jazz great Hank Jones on piano, Bill Pemberton on bass, Oliver Jackson on drums with Tony Koller on tenor sax and Rudy Rutherford on clarinet.
Warming up with an instrumental jam, which he dubbed "Jump Blues in F," Gatemouth flaunts his considerable skills on blues harp, along with his natural showmanship, accompanied by the core trio of Jones, Pemberton and Jackson. Changing keys, they sail through the instrumental "Jump Blues in C" with Brown switching to guitar while revealing the significant influence of T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian along the way. Gatemouth and the rhythm section are joined on this uptempo swinger by British jazz stalwarts Koller and Rutherford on clarinet. Respected jazz veterans Jones and Pemberton and Jackson also turn in wonderful solos here.
Changing up the mood once again, Brown switches to fiddle for a loping, blues-drenched instrumental "Yvonne Shuffle," which recalls the infectious flavor of Louis Jordan's "Caledonia," another of Gatemouth's favorites. Koller is spotlighted here on a solo that pushes the envelope, bordering on avant-garde territory. Brown follows with a humorous, conversational fiddle solo, dropping in a quote from "White Christmas" along the way, bringing his brief but spirited Grande Parade du Jazz set to a rousing conclusion.
A revered bluesman and multi-instrumentalist, Brown was born on April 18, 1924, in Vinton, Louisiana. Raised in Orange, Texas, he began his musical career on drums before switching to guitar. His first big break came in 1947 when he subbed on a gig at Don Robey's Bronze Peacock nightclub in Houston for an ailing T-Bone Walker. Robey later formed Peacock Records in 1949 to showcase Brown's infectious way with boogies and shuffles. He scored his first hit with 1951's horn-driven "Okie Dokie Stomp." Gatemouth recorded for Peacock through 1959, then relocated in 1960 to Nashville, where he recorded several country singles. By 1966, he was back in Texas, serving as musical director for the house band on the Dallas-based TV show The Beat!!!!, hosted by WLAC radio DJ Bill "Hoss" Allen.
He began widening his musical scope in the '70s, recording with country star Roy Clark and stretching out in jazz, blues and even calypso settings on record. His career got a lift in the '80s when he was discovered by a new, young audience of blues fans through his series of potent recordings for the Rounder and Alligator labels, notably Alright Again!, Standing My Ground and No Looking Back. He received greater visibility after signing with Verve Records in the mid '90s and releasing a string of acclaimed recordings, including 1995's The Man, 1997's Gate Swings and 1999's American Music, Texas Style. He recorded Back to Bogalusa for Blue Thumb Records in 2001 and in 2004 was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004. His final record, the typically eclectic Timeless, was released on the High Tone label that year.
A longtime resident of Slidell, Louisiana (where he also held the position of deputy sheriff), Brown's home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005. He evacuated to his childhood hometown of Orange, Texas, where he died two weeks later on September 10, 2005 at age 81 (Bill Milkowski)