On Friday I got to hear a Washington DC original. Chuck Brown, The Godfather of Go-go. I have heard Chuck play pretty many times now, although not enough to keep up with all the call and response singing that goes on among the real hardcore fans. One thing that always surprises me is how deep his jazz roots go. Also how good a guitarist he is. He was playing a PRS rather than the Gibson 335 that I associate with him on Friday. The show was an outdoor show at the Ronald Reagan building. I know, I know… anyone who has ever been near that building can attest to what a soul-killing architectural nightmare it is. It is truly the worst of the bureaucratic DC cityscape. But Chuck’s music is more powerful than any bland building vibe. He was great. He always is. And had the crowd dancing right away. His band was spot on. Brad Clemmens and Greg Boyer on Trumpet and trombone were wonderful. I don’t know his drummer’s name – or the conga player (indispensable to the go-go beat), but they were as solid as it gets.
Here is something I love about him: One of his standards is his special go-go version of “Moody’s Mood.” It is worth looking at the lineage of this song. “Moody’s Mood” comes from a tenor sax solo the great James Moody took over the changes of “I’m In the Mood For Love” on a recording he made in the ’50’s. (That cut was still called “I’m in the Mood For Love”) That solo was transcribed by one of the great jazz vocalists of all time, King Pleasure, who put words to it and sang it on his own record – calling it “Moody’s Mood.” That was probably in the early sixties???? Here – 50 years later Chuck Brown has the crowd dancing and singing along to “There I go, there I go, there I go again… Pretty Baby you are the soul that rocks my control.” All of his regular fans, many of whom have been listening to him steadily for 40 years, know all those lyrics by heart. I’m not sure I have point here, other than Chuck Brown more than deserves his status as DC legend. And perhaps that I am comforted by how deep his roots go into the jazz heart of Washington DC.
Redskins just lost to Detroit.