Monday, December 15, 2014

Deborah Brown: The Plastic Sax Person of the Year

The revelation struck me midway through Deborah Brown's exceptional headlining performance at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in September.  Brown wasn't fortunate to share the stage with guest artists Joe Lovano and Terell Stafford. Instead, the prestigious jazz stars were privileged to share the stage with her.

Brown's regal presence and lustrous voice were similarly spellbinding at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performance Arts on December 1.  She clearly relished performing on a stage commensurate with her talent in her hometown.

Several Plastic Sax reviews and editorials have referenced Brown's perplexingly low profile in Kansas City.  She may be better known in Amsterdam, Paris and St. Petersburg than in the city where she resides.  Yet with the possible exception of Bobby Watson, the globetrotting Brown is Kansas City's foremost international jazz ambassador among locally based musicians.

Her ongoing contributions and immense talent make the elegant artist Plastic Sax's Person of the Year of 2014.

In a freewheeling conversation at her home earlier this month, Brown lauded the revitalization of the local jazz scene.  When I suggested that she was the only Kansas City based artist I cared to hear scat, she immediately jumped to the defense of her hometown peers.

Even so, it's obvious that Brown possesses a unique voice that's further honed by her careful analysis of jazz history.  Brown speaks reverently of artists including Betty Carter.  Many admirers, myself among them, place Brown alongside Carter on their lists of the greatest jazz vocalists.

The previous recipients of Plastic Sax's Person of the Year award are Stan Kessler (2013), Doug and Lori Chandler (2012), Jeff Harshbarger (2011), Mark Lowrey (2010) and Hermon Mehari (2009).  Bobby Watson was named the Plastic Person Person of the Decade in 2009.

(Deborah Brown supplied the first image.  The second photo was taken by Plastic Sax at Helzberg Hall on December 1.)

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