feature: jazzy soul prodigy theo brown explores heartbreak on the devastating ‘the void.’ #soundcheck

July 11, 2014

Theo Brown, my heart goes out to you. It’s impossible to listen to his latest record The Void, without palpably feeling the heartbreak. That the album is so damn beautiful just makes it all the more painful. The Void is the very definition of bittersweet.

Words by Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

Starting with the instrumental “The Void pt 1” in which a woman’s voice speaks hopefully just out of hearing range, the album chronicles love lost, and the way a person’s presence is sometimes felt most when they’re absent. If “The Void pt 1” is a sort of prologue, “She Has My Heart” is the thesis. Big wide-open jazz chords float above Kevin Washington’s unfairly virtuosic drumming, while Theo Brown’s silky falsetto soars above the whole thing. On “Phoenix,” Brown adds some marimba into the mix, for one of the album’s best and most unique tracks. It’s not surprising that Theo Brown, the son of a successful Afro-Cuban percussionist should thrive when he gets inventive with his own percussion.

On tracks like “Everything,” Theo Brown’s musical theatre background shows through—don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism—with a piano lick that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jason Robert Brown composition. Countless singers, especially in the neo-soul world, have a background in musical theatre, and it’s worth applauding Theo Brown for being true to his roots and embracing theatricality and storytelling in his music. Fittingly, the song breaks down into an Afro-Cuban Rhodes solo. It’s a rare moment of earnest optimism on an album obsessed with looking back at a failed relationship and wondering where things went wrong. If there’s one major criticism of The Void, it’s one often leveraged at groups full of obscenely talented musicians: the songs are rarely shorter than 5 minutes. All of them feature lengthy instrumental breaks that merely serve to remind us that, yes, these guys are superhumanly talented at their instruments. But then, with performances this solid, it’s hard to complain too much.

Photo above courtesy of Photographer: Brian Schroeder