Robyn Brown – Sunday November 14 2021

A sweet, glowing halo flitted and shone around the Brisbane Jazz Club today.

Powered by a heavenly band of talented musicians and the powerful rhythms, emotion and enthusiasm of Gospel Music, the halo finally settled above the head of our lady on the stage, Ms. Robyn Brown.

And it touched and moved us all, through Robyn’s angelic voice, her deep, deep conviction, and her great love for this music and its message.

Yes, we were blessed, as Robyn and her six disciples shone their light on an afternoon of musical history: sharing a compelling and captivating journey of soul-stirring vocals, and a This Train load of engaging anecdotes about the genesis and legacy of Gospel Music, and many of its best-known saints and champions.

And we were carried high over Jordan, (aka The Brisbane River), on the wings of those spontaneous, memorable, dancing arrangements of the otherwise modest 1, 2 and 3-chord songs.

So, who was this band of Holy Rollers that held us spell-bound and captivated through an inspiring BJC Sunday session?

Well, up front, Robyn Brown is the vocalist and historian.

At the piano, and playing with a broken left pinkie, that’s David Spicer.             .

Behind the upright bass, under the same tousled, curly hair that he had last time he was at the BJC, (which was some time ago), was Peter Walters.  (Welcome back, Pete!! Great to see you).       .

At the kit, with the perfect mix of driving, rousing and gently understated drumming, that is Max Sportelli.

And blowing us all the way to dem ole Pearly Gates, the Horn Section is Emeritus Professor, Dr. Rob McWilliams on trumpet and flugelhorn, Mark Spencer on tenor saxophone and David Murtough on slide trombone.

So, thank you Robyn and your ensemble. Through your two-set song-list and informative anecdotes, we learnt much about this music, and many of its founders and pioneering influences.

We now know that the story of Gospel Music begins back in the 17th Century, with the African-American spirituals that sprang from the deprivations of the US Slave Trade. And we understand why the songs, which can be low, slow and dramatic, or happy, clappy and uplifting, are so full of biblical narrative and allusion, and the recurring theme of freedom.

Along the way, we met Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) and ‘The Godmother/Grandmother of Rock n Roll’, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973). There was Ethel Waters. The Fisk University Jubilee Singers. Mahalia Jackson. Aretha Franklin. Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. The Blind Boys Of Alabama. And more.

All of whom had helped lay the foundation for much of the American music that has been popularised since, including Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, Soul, Hip-Hop

…and of course, Jazz

…which leaves the circle unbroken, by eventually leading the faithful to here, our beloved Brisbane Jazz Club, for another beautiful afternoon….Down By The Riverside!!


Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club