Jack Rummel



Smiles and Chuckles

Celebrating the Music of the Six Brown Brothers

Royal City Saxophone Quartet

CBC Records MVCD 1160


Smiles and Chuckles / Torrid Dora / At the Chicken Chaser’s Ball / Laf’n Sax / Passion Dance / Lucille / Kitten Scamper / Golden Spur March / The Silver Strand Waltz / Egyptland / Bull Frog Blues / Russian Rag / Comedy Tom / That Alabama Jasbo Band / Kismet / Laughing Vamp / The Story Book Ball / Tucker Trot / Hey Paw! / Tom Brown’s Saxophone Waltz / Parade of the Elephants / Break’n Sax / Bonus tracks.


            During the second and third decades of the twentieth century, the Six Brown Brothers from Ontario , Canada – William, Tom, Alec, Percy, Vern and Fred, plus a few non-Browns along the way – were the darlings of vaudeville, selling numerous records as they performed.  Their repertoire included ragtime, fox trots, marches, waltzes, popular songs and clever novelty numbers that featured the unique (and often comical) sounds of saxophones.  By 1933, the act, which at one time was the highest paid group on stage, had collapsed and the brothers had drifted apart.

            Their music, however, has lingered with collectors, and now the Royal City Saxophone Quartet, also from Ontario , has resurrected the sound and the sizzle of the Brown Brothers for us denizens of the twenty-first century to enjoy.  Through the magic of overdubbing, the quartet becomes a sextet and the saxophones – soprano, alto, C-melody, tenor, baritone and bass – weave their magic again in the high fidelity afforded by today’s digital equipment.

            Arrangements are of the period, and many are done by names familiar to ragtimers such as F. Henri Klickmann, M.L. Lake and Harry Alford.  Several cuts are outright rags or tunes that fit the rag format, such as Smiles and Chuckles, Torrid Dora, Lucille, Tucker Trot, and Hey Paw!  The novelty numbers, Laf’n Sax, Laughing Vamp and Break’n Sax, are full of comedic sounds and are a reminder that the act was probably a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.  The rest of the selections embody a delightful mix of tempos and time signatures and help to maintain the album’s energy through to the end.

            My favorite track was Bull Frog Blues, a bluesy fox trot with lots of “smears” by the bass sax.  Other highlights included the title cut, Laf’n Sax, Lucille (a tango), Russian Rag, Tucker Trot (dedicated to Miss Sophie herself) and the bonus tracks at the end, which, again through the science of overdubbing, seamlessly weave two original Brown Brothers recordings into Royal City recordings on reprises of Comedy Tom and Smiles and Chuckles.

            This is an outstanding recording and I predict that you will be charmed as well as impressed by the music.  The liner notes are wonderfully complete as they recall the history of the Browns and describe the pieces as well.  The talented Royal City Saxophone Quartet, as the notes say, has “revived both the spirit and the music of their countrymen” and this CD will hold its own against any other disc in your collection.

            Available for $20.00 postpaid in the U.S. and Canada from The Royal City Saxophone Quartet, P.O.Box 25083 , 370 Stone Road West , Guelph , ON , Canada N1G 4V9 , Phone/Fax: 519-846-9663, or go to their website,, where you can pay by credit card.