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Browns in Blue
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Eighteenth Variation from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini [3:11]
The 5 Browns (pianos)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Carnival of the Animals – Aquarium; violin part transcribed by Bryan Hernandez-Luch [3:02]
Desirae and Deondra Brown (pianos) with Gil Shaham (violin)
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Retrato de Alfredo Gobbi from History of the Tango [3:03]
Ryan Brown (piano)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Clair de lune from Suite Bergamasque [5:05]
Desirae, Deondra and Melody Brown (pianos)
Aunt Hagar's Blues arranged Art Tatum [3:11]
Gregory Brown (piano)
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Romance from Suite No. 2, Op. 17 for Two Pianos [6:50]
Desirae and Deondra Brown (pianos)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in A Major Op.118 No.2 [5:53]
Melody Brown (piano)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Gretchen am Spinnrade
Ryan Brown (piano)
Reflections on "Shenandoah [6:50]
The 5 Browns (pianos)
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Embraceable You (arr. Earl Wild) [3:20]
Desirae Brown (piano)
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C Minor Op.48 No.1 [6:09]
Gregory Brown (piano)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on 'Dives and Lazarus' with interpolations by Leroy Anderson and Jean Sibelius [9:12]
The 5 Browns (pianos)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Carnival of the Animals - The Swan [2:13]
Melody Brown (piano)
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Ich liebe dich Op.41 No.3 [3:14]
Deondra Brown (piano)
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
An American in Paris as “Home Blues” (arr. Jeffrey Shumway) [8:04]
The 5 Browns (pianos) with Chris Botti (trumpet)
Everybody Loves Somebody arranged by Greg Anderson [3:09]
The 5 Browns with Dean Martin (vocals)
rec. legacy Recording Studios, New York City
RCA RED SEAL 88697 113222 [75:58]

This is the third CD from The Five Browns, talented American siblings who are all studying at the Juilliard. They’ve clearly reached a degree of eminence, for biographical matters such as these are dispensed with in the retro packaging of their disc. I had to do some internet sleuthing to find out a few details, having in fact assumed from the photographs that they were a swinging vocal combo, school of Anita O’Day and Tony Bennett. In fact they all play piano and theirs is a difficult disc to classify. It’s predominately classical with some arrangements and adaptations thrown in. The theme is vaguely to do with “blue” as a look at the titles will disclose; tristesse and languor seem also to qualify.
Greg Anderson made the Rachmaninoff Paganini arrangement for all five Browns to play – how they were distributed around the keyboards is a little mystery not disclosed. In fact how many pianos were involved is similarly mysterious. They play two movements from The Carnival of the Animals. On the first they’re joined by Gil Shahan in the violin transcribed part – nicely done. The visual aspect of the three female Browns playing the Debussy shouldn’t be discounted though we only have the aural one on disc. Gregory Brown takes on Art Tatum’s arrangement of Aunt Hagar’s Blues and does creditably though his playing is as yet rather book bound and lacking in contrasts.
The Romance (only) from Rachmaninoff’s Suite is an intelligent choice as it’s written for two pianos. Desirae and Deondra Brown do the honours. It’s doubtless unrealistic to compare them with Goldenweiser (the dedicatee) and Ginzburg in their 1948 recording though I did. It conforms to the general slowing up in performances over the years; it’s a bit languid and lateral as well, over-reflective. I note however that one of the Browns – Gregory – has on a previous disc recorded York Bowen’s Op.155 Toccata so they clearly have a penchant for big, rich, ripe romantic composers and their satellite works. There’s also a rather funereally played Chopin Nocturne here, the Earl Wild arranged Embraceable You, and another guest appearance, this time from trumpeter Chris Botti in the adaptation of An American in Paris (as “Home Blues”) arranged by Jeffrey Shumway. There’s a strange old beast in the shape of the sonorously intoned Fantasia on 'Dives and Lazarus' which comes bedecked with what I can only call interpolations by Leroy Anderson and Sibelius. I quite enjoyed the funky workout on John Novacek’s intermittently convincing Reflections on "Shenandoah”, played by all the Browns. The bonus track features all five Browns vamping away behind the late Dean Martin in one of those weird acts of necromancy so beloved of record companies and loathed by everyone else.
The spruce and elegant quintet of Browns have produced an enjoyable album geared to the younger market. If it makes friends for the classical muse that’s no bad thing.
Jonathan Woolf


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