May 1999

Bluezeum - Put Your Mind on Hold
Telarc CD-83432
Released: 1999

by Bruce Bassett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]While some artists choose to work within the confines of the norm and what is safe, Adwin Brown, the key figure behind Bluezeum, opts to dip his brush into a diverse palette in order to create something more original and daring. Conventional wisdom of what music should be is tossed asunder. In the liner notes Adwin, himself, queries how it is possible to, "Paint with the freedom of a child and stay within the lines?"

Brown's imaginative use of the English language to philosophize, dramatize and sensualize is nothing short of brilliant. In the title song, he defines "black" in challenging ways with stunning ingenuity. The following excerpt gives you an inkling of what he is capable of:

As 36 Monk keys dancin’ between 52 ivory bones
Black as the hole in dizzy’s horn
Spitting redhot comets cross
A universe called Minton’s"

There is, however, more to this package than just the engaging and provocative lyrics. The songs are saturated with a ubiquitous groove that burns deep. The repeating, short bass lines that often reside around the lower part of the bass register latch on to something primal inside of us and don’t let go. The rhythm is rich and textured, with varied percussion that is harmoniously integrated.

Diversity reigns supreme on Put Your Mind On Hold. "fiya", the second track, begins with a hollow synthesized horn, quickly followed by a hypnotic beat emanating from a thumping, syncopated bass drum and an intermittently resounding bass note plucked directly from the Richter scale, while the words are rhythmically uttered over the music. All of this preludes a dreamy calypso-sounding chorus. "esperanza", which has an awesome instrumental reprise at the end of the CD, is a mildly spiced Spanish-guitar–influenced piece complimented with a fluttering flute that saunters like a warm Caribbean sea breeze. "a darker shade of night" drips with sexuality from its words, the male/female vocal interplay, or foreplay if you prefer, and, the throbbing pulse of the bass. "boom" is a tremendously droll tune that could pass for an urban funk version of something one could readily believe the B-52s originally coined. "life b changin’" leads with a Claptonesque guitar riff that hands off to an underwater, synthesized wah-wah and breathes life from its bluesy rhythm and tasty bass kalimba and sax.

Throughout Put Your Mind on Hold there are references to some of the great pioneers of music from the second half of this century. Revered names such as, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus are mentioned. Much like the aforementioned, Adwin Brown and Bluezeum are also pioneers. They try not to emulate but rather innovate, while stimulating our minds and challenging our current definition of what music is.