Maurice ‘Mo Betta’ Brown: Hornification

From the windy city of Chicago’s and its blues, to the muddy banks of the Mississippi Delta in New Orleans and it’s jazz, to the concrete streets of Bedstuy, Brooklyn and it’s Hip-Hop, those in the know will tell you that Maurice “Mobetta” Brown is one of the best horn players on the planet. “Mobetta”, […]

From the windy city of Chicago’s and its blues, to the muddy banks of the Mississippi Delta in New Orleans and it’s jazz, to the concrete streets of Bedstuy, Brooklyn and it’s Hip-Hop, those in the know will tell you that Maurice “Mobetta” Brown is one of the best horn players on the planet. “Mobetta”, as they call him, has thoroughly been putting it down for music heads for years and now he’s back with a follow up to his 2004’s crossover release “Hip to Bop.”

A top ten release on the jazz charts at its time, the album is widely regarded as a contemporary jazz classic and an unbelievably sophisticated debut album for such a young musician.

Now Maurice Brown is giving listeners “The Cycle of Love.” The concept album takes listeners on a jazzy yet be-bop and Hip-Hop infused journey through the emotions and stages of love.

While the average Hip-Hop listener has likely heard the sounds of “Mobetta” unknowingly, in the jazz and soul world, Maurice Brown is considered a pioneer with respect to the melodic sounds he has been able to create and currently he is what many regard as the “first call” horn player in New York for Hip-Hop and R&B songs.

Jazz, soul, or Hip-Hop, Maurice “Mobetta” Brown has been nailing studio sessions in all three genres, collaborating with likes of artists such as Aretha Franklin, The Roots, Wyclef Jean, John Legend, De La Soul, Cee-Lo and Musiq Soulchild to name a few, guiding the listeners with what he calls “hornificaiton”.

Leaving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the Bedstuy, Brooklyn resident is a member of the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame and he continues to gain accolades across the industry for his arranging and songwriting capabilities. sat down to talk with Maurice about his success in the industry and his upcoming releases on his own label, Brown Records. Take a look at this Q and A with one of the industry’s most talented trumpet players. What good man? Where you at right now?

Mobetta: I’m in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. I’m over here in the heart of it all you could say. I appreciate you taking the time to link up with me. So getting into things here, you have your own label, right?

Mobetta: Yea, right now I am really focused on this project right now. It is definitely my plan to take on more artists later but I got to put this project out and I have another project after this one that I am putting out called “Mobetta & Soul’d U Out.” It is definitely my plan to come out with more music later, but I am focused on the “Cycle of Love” album right now. It’s a lot of work that goes into having your own label, but you definitely reap the benefits later. Right, so you’re originally from Chicago, you moved to New Orleans, essentially a “Jazz Mecca”, now you’re in Brooklyn, New York. What has the journey been like man? Can you describe the music in each city and how that’s shaped your style?

Mobetta: Yea man, it’s been an incredible journey. You know Chicago is the home of the blues, so there’s a lot of blues going on in Chicago, that’s a big part of my foundation. Then when I moved to New Orleans and that’s when I got to really soak up the culture and start getting a lot of the soulfulness, like the melodies, and getting the party going. That’s what New Orleans is all about. Every time I played there it was like I was the hypeman. I played and I got the party going. In New York, its like the best of the best are here so its like I was really able to refine my style here in New York. I was able to take all the element of each city and now here you have Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. You left New Orleans after Katrina was devastated right?

Mobetta: Yea I had to leave. I left all my stuff behind. I had nothing to come back to. So I said I might as well go to New York. I was planning on making the journey up here anyways but that definitely gave me a good kick to get me going. Now prior to that, you released the critically acclaimed “Hip to Bop” in 2004. How did that change your career? Looking back how did that album impact your career.

Mobetta: That album was definitely my start in the music business. A lot of people are putting their own albums out in jazz now, but I was doing it in 2004. I was one of the pioneers of putting out your own albums out in the Jazz game. If you looked up there on jazz charts; I was in the top ten next to Virgin and Blue Note. How did you do that? How did you compete with such heavy hitters like that as a smaller independent label?

Mobetta: The main piece to my success is that I do a lot of collaborations and I also do a lot of production. So I am really well connected in the industry with a lot of people. I am one of the first call horn guy in New York City right now.

“Daydreams” – Maurice Brown LIVE at the Harlem Gatehouse from Adam Barton on Vimeo.

I do all the horns for Wyclef Jean, Atlantic Records, so I’m on like Talib’s “Eardrum”, Aretha Franklin’s stuff, De La Soul’s new album, I did a project Nike put out, just got done with Cee-Lo, Musiq Soulchild, so I am all over the place. I did VH1 Honors, The Roots, Questlove. The Roots always cover different songs. What do you play when you play with The Roots? Do you jam out or do you have songs that you cover?

Mobetta: Oh man, it’s totally a big jam every time with The Roots. You never know where we are going to go. We always have a plan, but the band is such a vibe band, we go wherever the music takes us when I play with them. Who would you say that influences you or what Hip-Hop groups do you like that are out now.

Mobetta: I definitely like older Hip-Hop with more content and quality, but I definitely like what’s out now. I’m in to whatever catches my ear at the moment. Sometimes I will go with the more commercial stuff that everyone likes. I love Jay, Kanye and Talib, but I also look at production. I really like a lot of what DangerMouse is doing and a lot of his collaborations and what he does with Gnarles Barkley. Broken Bell the new group he has going on. There is just so much. What’s in your iPod?

Mobetta: [Laughs] I have so much music man, being a producer, I have music dating back man. If you saw my iPod you would trip out! I have a lot of soul, a lot of funk, and a lot of Hip-Hop. Yea so I saw you got the chance to work with Aretha.

Mobetta: Yea man I went in and arranged all the horns for her song in collaboration with John Legend. Produced by Gable Springsteen, he’s the Grammy nominated producer who did the song “Diamonds are Forever” for Kanye West. I basically went in there wrote some horn lines and arranged the horns section for the song and went in there and nailed it. They were really happy with it.

The key thing for me is that my melodies are really catchy. So that’s one of the things in the industry that people really like. Sometimes the horn line in a song is the only thing that you remember. So speaking of horns, you coined the term “hornification”, can you tell me about that term?

Mobetta: Yea “hornification” is basically what I do man. I come in to a session. They ask for horns and most of the time its just me by myself, they don’t have a whole horn section. So I come in and end up doing a lot of overdubs. I do the high horns, the middle horns, the lower horns, I bust out the flugelhorn which is a deeper sounding trumpet kind of like a cross between the trombone and trumpet, so I lay that down. Then it just allows the producer to master thick sounds like Earth, Wind and Fire horns, kind of, but with definitely a more Hip-Hop swag on it. You mentioned that you worked with Wyclef Jean. He is known to be in the studio for long hours and to be a great producer. Can you tell me about that?

Mobetta: Working with Wyclef and Jerry Wonder, that’s his main man, the bassist and producer. It has been incredible, I have picked up so many production tips from them. They are very musical people. They put music first before anything else.

The one interesting thing about Wyclef and his production that I find different from a lot of people is that he likes to record more from an old school approach as far as a live band. They start off as a live band and jam and then find the best moments and then they put it all together that way. Then they track it out so that’s why all of their music has such an organic feel to it. Right, that’s cool man. So you have been elected into the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame and you have only lived in New York since Katrina, about 5 years. That’s unbelievable considering you haven’t even been in the city that long.

Mobetta: What is cool is when I was in New Orleans I got the Big Easy Contemporary Jazz Award, so that means I was representing contemporary jazz in New Orleans. I had the biggest club out there selling out, two shows every Tuesday. For 2 or 3 years I was doing that, I was selling out and that was really cool. I also got the New Orleans All Star Award.

So basically I settled down for a little bit. I am not so much searching for some place to get known, I am actually bringing something. When I got here people knew who I was, people were like, “Oh Maurice Brown is here in New York now?” From there on, I really got deep into the scene, I hooked up with Craig Kallman, the Chairmam and CEO of Atlantic Records, and he asked me to be the musical director for Laura Izibor for a whole year. She is a new artist on Atlantic, that was cool, my band backed her up until the end of 2009 and I had to stop because I have my international tour that I have set up where we are going all over the place. I’m going to Jakarta for the Java Jazz Festival; John Legend will be there, Tony Braxton. I am going to New Delhi, India, France, Croatia and Spain twice this year.

The journey continues man.

Mobetta: Yea with my label I have international distribution so my record is going to be everywhere with that. I already started pre-orders on my website, and my fans have been going on there and buying the album in advance. I have had so many pre-orders that it has basically been paying for all of my distribution costs for my album to get everywhere. So the fans basically have been paying for me to take “Cycle of Love” and spread it everywhere. Got to be exciting going forward.

Mobetta: Yea it’s an incredible feeling. Just being able to represent music and jazz in general. A lot of times people take jazz and may feel its too heavy, but the music that I write is very accessible and based on a pop form. So when you hear the melodies they are so catchy that it sounds like you heard them before. It’s like its own thing. It’s bigger than me, the music itself so it is a very humbling experience.

I definitely am living my dream and I definitely feel blessed. I don’t take it for granted to be able to touch people’s souls. It’s definitely a responsibility. That is something that people in Hip-Hop definitely don’t always take into consideration. The ability to touch people’s soul is serious.

Mobetta: It’s a huge responsibility, and you know your ego can get in the way sometimes, but you know you have to check yourself and let yourself know that this is all bigger than me. I am just a vessel here to deliver this message at this moment. I am the chosen one at this moment. I am definitely on the road and its incredible bro.

I am also doing a music video, which is very different for jazz. I am doing the video for the single “Time Tick Tock”, that has been an awesome experience. I also have a documentary that is coming out soon with Adam Bartran. So I think that will reach people too. How did you pick “Time Tick Tock” as your first single for your new album “Cycle of Love”?

Mobetta: For me the reason that I picked it was because there were a lot of songs that I thought could have been a single but I didn’t want to give off a certain vibe. But “Time Tick Tock” was the most “stop you in your tracks” type song that I though would make listeners stop and want to check out the album completely. The whole thing behind “Time Tick Tock” and the album “The Cycle of Love“ that its my interpretation of the different stages that we go through on our journey and quest for true happiness as individuals. So each song is a different stage in the cycle of love. So it’s a concept album, and that’s one of the reasons that it took me so long to put another album out since the last one. Since the hurricane, Hurricane Katrina put me back a little bit, but I didn’t just want to put out an album with just two or three songs. I just wanted to make an album where you would be able to just put it on and let it play through. So I really feel like everyone is really going to feel this Do you have any collaboration that you are excited about coming up?

Time Tick Tock Teaser from Adam Barton on Vimeo.Mobetta: I did the remix for Puffy’s “Angels” with Jerry Wonder, but I got a lot of stuff coming up man. The next album is going to be the “Mobetta & Soul’d U Out.” album where there are singers and I am rapping on it. I think you are def going to feel that. On my current album, Chris Rob in on the keys, he used to rock with John Legend and went out with Stevie Wonder for a second.

Each of the guys on my album are not so much jazz names but they are more popular in the R&B and Hip-Hop world. Gives music and Hip-Hop fans a lot to look forward to. A nice little network of musicians in New York collaborating can only be a good thing. Makes for some excellent music. Mobetta: The mailing list I have is sick and my crew does too. So most likely if there is a show up here and we all blast it all over the place like, “This is where it is, this is where it’s going down, ” 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be sold out.

This album is not your normal jazz album at all. Its definitely a cross over album to connect the dots to get people prepared for the “Mobetta & Soul’d U Out.” album that I am going to do. I didn’t want to go straight to the “Soul’d U Out.” album because I felt it was important for people to understand where I am coming from. So if they look at “Hip to Bop”, to “To The Cycle of Love”, “Soul’d U Out.” is next in the progression.