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Donald Brown

Donald Ray Brown was born on March 28, 1954 in Desoto, Mississippi. At the age of two, Brown and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Donald came from a musical family, which instilled a love of music in the young boy. His first foray into music included early stints on the drums, baritone horn and tuba. In the ninth grade, he began to play the trumpet and showed a great deal of talent on the instrument, winning several awards for his abilities.

Brown’s first musical mentors were his cousin Lloyd “Stan” Anderson, a gospel pianist and his sister Waddia, who was a gifted singer and pianist. Upon graduating from high school, Donald enrolled at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) on a trumpet scholarship, but he quickly switched to the piano. While attending college, he was persuaded to study jazz by his friend and classmate pianist James Williams.

At Memphis State, Brown gained considerable performance experience as a member of the Memphis Three, a trio of outstanding pianists who passed through the university in the 1970s including Williams and Mulgrew Miller. During this time, Donald began to build his résumé by doing studio work for Stax Records owner, Jim Stewart and Hi Records owner, Willie Mitchell.

Brown used his time in college to sharpen his composing and arranging talents by writing for the university jazz band. Upon finishing his studies in 1975, Donald performed locally before replacing Williams in drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the summer of 1981. The band at the time included trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce and bassist Charles Fambrough.

With Blakey, Brown toured both domestically and internationally. In January of 1982, he recorded the album Keystone 3 with Blakey at the Keystone Korner club in San Francisco. The album reached number thirty-one on Billboard Magazine’s Top Jazz Album Chart. The talent of the ensemble can be best heard on the album’s closing number, “A La Mode.”

With the task of blending three horns together, Brown provides a firm harmonic underpinning by comping in between the spaces of the horns, resulting in a more cohesive and robust sound. Brown's solo exudes a melodic sophistication and a tight, lyrical voice which which easily united all of the instruments of the ensemble.

The same year, Brown appeared with Blakey on the video Jazz at the Smithsonian: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, a taped concert that was filmed at the Baird Auditorium at the Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. After a year with the Blakey group, Donald left the group due to a bout of rheumatoid arthritis. He moved back to Memphis where he began to pursue more studio-oriented work.

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Album Review

Benjamin Boone: The Poets Are Gathering

Read "The Poets Are Gathering" reviewed by Paul Rauch

Saxophonist Benjamin Boone continues his ambitious foray into jazz and poetry, this time recruiting an impressive cadre of poets for his aptly entitled release, The Poets are Gathering (Origin, 2020). The union of poetry and jazz has never been so powerfly presented, reflecting the past year of the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, the universal role of the poet, and the power of art and voice to raise awareness and inspire change. The album employs the likes of US Poet ...

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Trumpeter Joe Mazzaferro Releases Debut CD "In Terms Of..." with Jeff Clayton, Donald Brown and Carl Allen

Trumpeter Joe Mazzaferro Releases Debut CD "In Terms Of..." with Jeff Clayton, Donald Brown and Carl Allen

Source: Craig Neely

On February, 9th 2018 Sacramento CA native, trumpeter, composer, educator and arranger Joe Mazzaferro released his debut CD In Terms Of... on his own Joe Mazz Music label with special guest Jeff Clayton and featuring Donald Brown and Carl Allen! Joe Mazzaferro was raised in a musical household. As Joe states “both of my parents were musicians and me and my 3 sisters all played. My father is a retired high school band director (who still teaches) as well as ...



KJO Featuring: Donald Brown, John Clayton, Stefon Harris and Gregory Tardy

KJO Featuring: Donald Brown, John Clayton, Stefon Harris and Gregory Tardy

Source: All About Jazz

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra - Blues Man from Memphis

More from the Musical Mind of Donald Brown

Featuring John Clayton, Stefon Harris, and Gregory Tardy

The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra's debut cd for Blue Canoe Records, “Blues Man from Memphis", is a most adventurous big band effort featuring the work of Donald Brown. The recording also highlights the prodigious talents of three other world renowned artists: bassist John Clayton, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and saxophonist Greg Tardy.

Pianist Donald Brown (who also produced ...



Music of Donald Brown at Miller Theatre in NYC

Music of Donald Brown at Miller Theatre in NYC

Source: All About Jazz

Miller Theatre at Columbia University presents “Music of Donald Brown," on Friday, February 21st at 8pm. With roots in the rhythm n' blues music of Memphis, pianist Donald Brown draws on diverse influences in his compositions: lyrical jazz, blues, urban beats, and Frech sounds. His compositional career grew out of his performances with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. This show for jazz combo will include pianists Eric Reed and Mulgrew Miller, with Robert Hurst, bass, Carl Allen, drums, Gary Bartz, alto ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Poets Are...

Origin Records


Early Bird

West Wind


Against Silence

From: The Poets Are Gathering
By Donald Brown



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