Pete Woods and Normand Glaude ©Brett Delmage, 2019
(l-r) Pete Woods and Normand Glaude reminisce over one of Brian Browne's humorous comments ©Brett Delmage, 2019

Pete Woods and Normand Glaude
Tribute to Brian Browne
The Record Centre Tent, Ottawa Jazz Festival
Sunday, June 23, 2019 – 5:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage

Pete Woods had a smile on his face as he recounted how he recorded his final album with the late jazz pianist Brian Browne. It was in The Record Centre store in Hintonburg in December, 2016, in the evening after the store closed, with Browne playing on the small piano by the store's window. It was all analog; Robert Chapman recorded the session live off the floor on a reel to reel tape machine.

On Sunday, The Record Centre released the album – The Light of Common Day – on vinyl, and marked the occasion with an hour-long concert by Woods and bassist Normand Glaude. Both were long-time friends of Browne. Woods and Browne released three albums together (Testimony, Honest Company, and The Light of Common Day).

“I'm here missing Brian now, but I wanted to remember the fun of it and the intimacy of that project. It was a labour of love,” Woods told the audience.

The vinyl release concert was held at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, in the CD/merchandise tent being run there by The Record Centre. Immediately before the concert, The Record Centre played the album for listeners, allowing them to hear Browne's meticulous and affectionate piano interpretations.

Woods and Glaude played jazz standards – as Browne always preferred and promoted – with more than half selections from the album. Both the show and the album emphasized Duke Ellington's classic and varied compositions.

They attracted a small but clearly absorbed and appreciative audience, with more listeners joining in as the show progressed. Outside, there were protracted lineups in the sun for the 8:30 p.m. show by Chicago; inside, it was calm and cool.

The duo opened with an assured rendition of “In a Mellow Tone”, with deeply swinging double bass lines under smooth tenor sax, and followed that with bluesy tenor and thoughtful bass in “I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)”. I particularly liked how Glaude built an initially sparse bass pattern into a melody in this tune, creating his own tribute to Browne's piano style.

“Don't Get Around Much Any More” and “I'm Just a Lucky So and So” were swinging numbers which immersed you in the joy of their melodies. “Come Sunday”, written for Ellington's sacred concerts, featured plaintive soprano sax lines over resonant double bass line, creating a peaceful mood.

Browne was a trenchant speaker with a vivid and sometimes unprintable turn of phrase, who avoided sentimentality but put a great deal of emotional intensity into his performances. Woods said that in one of the very first gigs he played with Browne, they played “Mood Indigo” and “two chords in, I started to get choked up. There was something in his playing that opened up the room around him emotionally.”

That happened many times, he said, whether in concert halls or countless little gigs, but if Woods had mentioned it, “he'd kick my ass!”

Woods' and Glaude's version of "Mood Indigo" was unornamented yet rich, with full-bodied tenor over a simple bass pattern. It filled the tent and flowed out onto the walkway to City Hall. I noted that the sound of the rushing water from the City Hall fountain nearby filled in some of the edges quite nicely, like light cymbal sweeps from a drummer.

Woods said that one of Browne's aphorisms was to “Play the hits!” – songs audiences loved – and “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” was one of those for Browne. It was a bright tune with an insinuating melody on soprano sax and singing bass lines – almost making you want to dance.

The duo closed with the album's title song, written by Woods and Browne. Its title first came from a poem by William Wordsworth; the phrase was quoted by Dan Morgenstern in his liner notes for an album by famed jazz saxophonist Gene Ammons. Ammons spent too long in prison on drugs charges, and Morgenstern wrote how the limits of human imagination and the cruelty of the criminal justice system had denied Ammons “the light of common day”. Woods said he felt this fitted many occasions in life where events deny us freedom.

Glaude opened the piece with a reverberant bass riff followed by Woods with a sad and lonely melody on tenor. They alternated the lead on the tune and played punctuated variations on its melody, all while retaining its gentle swing and hopeful feel. The audience responded with strong applause, and some stayed to chat afterwards.

Set List

  1. In a Mellow Tone [Duke Ellington]
  2. I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) [Duke Ellington]
  3. Don't Get Around Much Anymore [Duke Ellington]
  4. Come Sunday [Duke Ellington]
  5. I'm Just a Lucky So and So [Duke Ellington]
  6. Mood Indigo [Duke Ellington]
  7. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans? [Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter]
  8. The Light of Common Day [Peter Woods and Brian Browne]