Album review | The Jolley Brothers’ Memoirs Between Brothers (AUDIO)

The Jolley Brothers have just released a bold debut album. Courtesy Nate Jolley

by Giovanni Russonello
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Things you won’t hear on Memoirs Between Brothers, the refreshing debut album from rising D.C. jazz stars the Jolley Brothers: covers of jazz standards; humorous quoting from famous bebop melodies; and tunes with that old, satisfying hard-bop swing.

What you’ll find instead is a collection of 10 original pieces, nine composed by brothers Nate and Noble Jolley and one by their father, all rooted in jazz’s fundamentals but with various degrees of separation from the bop tradition. As the brothers state in the liner notes, this record was conceived as a way to look back at their first 24 years of life together while paying tribute to their late father, a guitarist who endowed them with a love of music. But it’s ultimately a statement about the need to innovate, to find new meaning in the traditions of the past by seizing and building on what’s valuable in the contemporary.

Ben Williams, the Washington native and Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition winner who plays acoustic bass on most of the tracks on Memoirs. Williams contributes a few staggeringly melodic solos, but more importantly he sets out a foundation that’s formidable and self-assured. Williams’ wide, earthy tone is the soil from which the Jolley Brothers flourish.

Between Duke Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Shirley Horn and others, there’s plenty of oft-mentioned jazz history wafting through the streets of D.C. But what about Marvin Gaye and Chuck Brown? (For what it’s worth, even Parliament-Funkadelic’s famous Mothership is reputed to have landed in its final resting place somewhere near Silver Spring, Md.) Clearly, this city has a vibrant tradition to uphold across the spectrum of African-American music. And with Memoirs Between Brothers, the Jolley Brothers are doing a fine job of carrying it on.

The Jolley Brothers perform tonight at the Mansion at Strathmore. Buy tickets here. You can purchase Memoirs Between Brothers by sending an email to [email protected], or starting this weekend at JolleyBrothers.com. Update: You can now purchase the album via digstation.com.

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