Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
South Side's favorite daughter, Maggie Brown returned to the Hyde Park's Jazz Society's Checker Jazz set on August 10th, to the delight of those assembled at the legendary Checkerboard Lounge. Kicking off the first set was a mellow number by Maggie's band, led by her longtime band mates guitarist Dejuan Jones, keyboardist Shawn Wallace, bassist Marvin Little and drummer Frank Seabrooks. Jones was featured using the "wah-wah " sound while making his guitar "cry" like Jimi Hendricks' instrument. Maggie finally joined in toward the end of this initial jam.
Her first vocal was "Real Thing" which enabled her to demonstrate her theatrical skills and training. This allowed her to bring the song closer to one's imagination. Maggie always pays homage to her father , the late great Oscar Brown , Jr. and her first such tribute was Oscar's "Why I Fly High In July." This song was taken from a group he wrote pertaining to each month of the year. She takes musical liberties and isn't afraid to sing "out of the box." Perhaps that's a reflection of her great genes and training. It was during her rendition of Sade's "Is It A Crime," that guitarist Jones again displayed his wide ranging skills. His guitar was right on point all night. These two work soooo well together. The crowd really was responsive when Maggie belted out Miles Davis's "All Blues", which Oscar penned words to. Maggie sang this number as if she's familiar with the Blues.
Perehaps the most touching moment of the evening occured when Ms. Brown dedicated a soft tune to her Brother Bobo who passed away about 12 years ago. This solemn number was done with only accompaniment from Keyboardist Wallace.
There were many highlights to this set but again when Maggie and Jones teamed up on "Here's to Life" it climaxed the evening. Jones answered each vocal cry from Maggie with a beautiful response from his wailing guitar. Maggie ended the evening with vocalist Abbey Lincoln's "Wholly Earth". Maggie shared with the audience her affection for Abbey and her experience of having recorded with Ms. Lincoln. Again, Maggie always remembers those who paved the way for others to have the opportunity to share their beautiful music with the world.
Finally, mark your calenders for Feb. 13, 2009 as Maggie shares the bill with Dee Dee Bridgewater at Symphony Center downtown Chicago when she does a tribute to her father Oscar, before Dee Dee does the same to legendary drummer Max Roach.
For future Checker Jazz events (including their Sept.27th 2nd annual Jazz Festival), refer to their website at www.checkerjazz.org.