Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Godfather of Go-Go ready to roll

Chuck Brown

Courtesy photo

Chuck Brown

  • When: 8 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Jefferson Center, 541 Luck Ave., Roanoke
  • Cost: $24; students half price.
  • More info: 345-2550, jeffcenter.org, www.windmeupchuck.com


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When Chuck Brown comes to town, it's generally a party. What else do you want from the "Godfather of Go-Go"?

On Friday night at Jefferson Center, Brown will be injecting the deeply funky festivities with a dose of Hokie pride. Last Saturday, Brown was in Tampa, Fla., watching from Raymond James Stadium as his son, Nekos Brown, and Virginia Tech beat Boston College 30-12 to win the ACC football championship.

Nekos Brown, a junior and a backup defensive end, got a tackle as his team won its second consecutive conference title. Next stop for the Hokies: a second consecutive trip to the Orange Bowl, on New Year's Day. Brown won't be able to make the bowl game -- after all, who would the Godfather of Go-Go be if he weren't playing a New Year's Eve show somewhere?

But Brown said that fans at Jefferson Center on Friday can expect added Hokie flavor. He even improvised a quick couplet in a Monday morning phone conversation: "Win or lose, win or lose, Virginia Tech is who I choose."

Ah, call-and-response rhymes -- you'll always hear a fat share of those at a Brown show. It's the loping, audience-participation end of Brown's bass- and percussion-driven shuffle, a groove that's adaptable to many different musical genres.

Brown for years has mashed soul, blues and jazz into his Grover Washington Jr.-inspired beat. But with 2007's "We're About the Business," he and producer Chucky Thompson (Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, NAS) added rapping and samples, firsts for a Brown album. Don't think that Brown, surely one of the hippest 70-somethings on the planet, is going for the obvious. The track "Eye Candy" features samples from "Liberty City," a song by a groundbreaking jazz bassist, the late Jaco Pastorius.

Brown opens the record with a go-go version of "Love Theme from 'The Godfather,' " and moves on to drop some George Benson-style jazz and hard blues guitar bits into the funk. Brown and Thompson have produced a party in the studio, and it includes help from Brown's daughter, a rapper named KK, who also tours with him. Her work on "Chuck Baby" is sharp, and a Washington Post reviewer called that track the best on a CD worth celebrating.

But Brown and his band live to be on stage.

"In terms of the quality of the music, you can get good quality out of a studio," he said. "Good quality. But when it's live ... there's a lot more energy there. It's more personal. You got the audience hollering at you, and you hollering back at them. It's a groove, man. You can't beat that."

Go to this story at roanoke.com/entertainment to hear a podcast of our interview with Brown. We discuss the history of Go-Go music, how he came up with the style, and details of "We're About the Business." And Brown talks about how proud he is right now of his sons, Nekos and Wiley, both playing college football (Wiley Brown is at Duquesne, but plans to transfer to Tech).

"I want them to have everything I never had, and have all the opportunities I was never given," Brown said. "God is good."

So is Go-Go.