All About Jazz

Home » Member Page

Jeri Brown

"One of the top 50 jazz vocalists of all time."

About Me

Voice as an instrument "I take a song and work it in my own way. I love the challenge of a musical moment, the immediacy of it." Ms. Brown’s voice can be described as three-dimensional. To the up and down (a four-octave range), she adds an in and out, a plasticity of dynamics stretched and deepened by changes of vowel and tonal color, from breathy contralto to high flute- like tones. Like Sarah Vaughan, Brown has a rich complex voice that is always on pitch. Such talent has afforded Jeri Brown a lifetime of vocal experiences from jazz, pop and spiritual to avant-garde, classical and musical theatre. Like Betty Carter, Brown approaches a song as an instrument and makes her own musical path. History and early training Jeri Brown was born in Missouri and has been singing publicly from the age of six. It was in Iowa, on a four-year scholarship, that she studied classical voice under the direction of Frank Summerside. As a result of student performances in mid-western U.S. and Europe, (Sweden, Germany, Norway and Holland), her voice caught the attention of musical directors and composers looking for an imaginative voice with incredible range effortlessly creating aesthetic touches to their contemporary or avant-garde works. Along with performances with the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Jeri began performing more stylistic renditions of standards from theatre, film and pop culture. Drummer and renowned bandleader Bob McKee, former percussionist on the long- running Mike Douglas television series, invited Jeri to become lead singer in several of his combos in Ohio. This exposure and training led to performances with many renowned artists including Ellis Marsalis, Billy Taylor and Dizzy Gillespie. It was also during this period that Ms. Brown was encouraged to improvise in concert with such emerging artists as Joe Lovano. Jeri Brown then rapidly moved into the front rank of jazz vocalists from the Cleveland area as resident vocalist with The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. Besides focusing on classic jazz standards, she developed as an accomplished lyricist, recitalist, concert soloist and recording artist, and has become one of the world's most respected jazz vocalists. Jazz Jeri Brown has earned a reputation as one of jazz’s most outstanding "artistic" vocalists. With many fine musicians who are labeled "artistic," it’s sometimes overlooked how richly musical, thoroughly accessible and enjoyable their music can be. Jeri Brown is focused, ambitious, daring and intent upon creating music that is both well conceived and honest. Brown is well known for performing and recording with passion and dedication. Committed to the legacy of vocal jazz, Ms. Brown’s performances fill the historical spectrum of classic American songbook themes, original jazz compositions, and contemporary world themes with intense vocal improvisations, and include collaborations with diverse, legendary jazz artists. Jeri Brown has performed or recorded with such musicians as Leon Thomas, Betty Carter, Oscar Brown Jr., John Hicks, Grady Tate, Kirk Lightsey, John B. Williams, Ellis Marsalis, Erik Truffaz, David Murray, John Blake, Jr., D.D. Jackson, Craig Handy, Billy Hart, Kenny Werner, Pierre Michelot, John Betsch, Alain Jean-Marie, James Williams, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Fred Hersch, Stephen Scott, Tony Suggs, Michel Donato, Roy McCurdy, Winard Harper, Chico Freeman, Joe Lovano, Duane Eubanks, Cyrus Chestnut, Dr. Billy Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Avery Sharpe, Rufus Reid, Yoron Israel, Gerry Gibbs, Mon David, Vic Vogel, Michel Donato, Don Thompson, Seamus Blake and Jimmy Rowles. As an avant-garde vocalist Jeri’s commitment to improvisation is evidenced by consistent recordings and performances of new and established composers including Kenny Wheeler, Kirk Lightsey, Avery Sharpe, John Blake Jr., David Murray, D. D. Jackson, Kenny Werner, Cyrus Chestnut, John Betsch, Alain Jean-Marie, Jobic Le Masson, Pierre de Bethmann, Fred Hersch, Craig Handy and Erik Truffaz. Always interpreting song with her unique artistry, Jeri’s tribute performances have included Nina Simone, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Angela Bofill, Roberta Flack and Mahalia Jackson. Her current theatrical performance project First Ladies of Jazz celebrates some of Jeri’s favorite artists and demonstrates Jeri’s commitment to vocal education and performance art. The 2012 project Sojourner Truth – “...Ain’t I a Woman?” with acclaimed jazz bassist and composer Avery Sharpe as part of sextet performance project launched yet another theatrical venture for Ms. Brown. Venue highlights in Europe: Cluj Opera House (Romania), La Villette Performance Hall (Paris), Italia Concert Hall (Genoa), Jazz à Vienne Roman Amphitheatre (France), San Sebastian Amphitheatre (Spain); La Villa (Paris); in U.S. and Canada: Blue Note (NY), Kennedy Center (DC), Glenn Gould Theatre (Toronto); Culver Arts Center (TX), Jazz Standard (NY), Sweet Basil (NY), Blues Alley (NY), Los Angeles County Museum of the Arts, Bakers (MI), Salle Gésu (Montreal), Place des Arts (Montreal), Spectrum (Montreal), Club Soda (Montreal), and Senator (Toronto). Festival highlights in U.S. and Europe: Litchfield Jazz Festival (CT), Akbank Jazz Festival (Turkey), Jazz à Vienne (France), Parthenay Jazz Festival (France), Montauban Jazz Festival (France), San Sebastian Jazz Festival (Spain), Cascais FNAC Festival (Portugal), Cleveland Jazz Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival; in Canada: Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, and Atlantic Jazz Festival. In 2001, Jeri Brown created her own record label, Jongleur Productions, committed to providing a forum for the creation of music yet untapped by Ms. Brown as well as for her productions with new or lesser-known talent worldwide. The first successful release from Jongleur – Sempre Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone – received rave reviews and features Jeri with Canadian guitarist Al Sutherland. Her most recent release – Storytelling – with American west coast pianist Woody Woods was nominated for Canada’s East Coast Music Award in 2012. Other Jongleur projects have included: Jeri Brown Live in Paris 2008, featuring Paris performances at the Sunside Jazz Club with band members Jobic Le Masson (piano), Peter Giron (bass) and legendary drummer John Betsch along with Radio France concert recordings with Pierre de Bethmann on piano. The 2010 release of Improvisations in Song received similar acclaim and features Jeri Brown with guest Canadian guitarist Roddy Ellias. The upcoming Jongleur releases Jeri Brown: Vocal Artistry–First Ladies of Jazz, Jeri Brown: Tribute to Duke Ellington, and His Name is Golden Sky are due in 2013. Jeri hopes to record annually on the Jongleur label while continuing her recording presence with Justin Time Records. New Wonderland, Jeri's tenth album for Justin Time Records, was released in spring of 2007. Classical and contemporary Jeri continues to perform chamber concerts with small and large ensembles primarily for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Vision TV, and BRAVO. In addition to a long series of avant-garde performances with newer composers, highlight performances of Ms. Brown have included classical and non-classical premieres and tribute concerts featuring works of Kenny Wheeler, George Gershwin, Langston Hughes, John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet), Amadeus Mozart, Negro spirituals and Duke Ellington, Oscar Brown Jr., Michel Legrand and Kurt Weill. Ms. Brown has performed with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Maritime Jazz Orchestra, Vic Vogel Orchestra of Montreal, Akron Jazz Orchestra, Canadian St. John String Quartet, Blue Engine String Quartet of Nova Scotia, and Symphony Nova Scotia. In concert Repertoire Ms. Brown appears frequently with her own ensembles on stages throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. She has traveled, recorded, adjudicated and performed extensively at festivals, concert series and noted jazz clubs to sold-out audiences worldwide including presidents and royalty. Featured in these stunning jazz productions is a pool of dedicated Canadian and international musicians. Ms. Brown boasts a veritable array of artists including Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson, Michel Donato, Kirk Lightsey, Jeff Johnston, Joe Sullivan, Rémi Bolduc, Simon Sloutsker and Wali Muhamad, as well as renowned guests Avery Sharpe, Kenny Werner, Stephen Scott, Tony Suggs, Woody Woods, Don Braden, John Hicks, Erik Truffaz, John Betsch, Billy Hart, Curtis Lundy and Fred Hersch. Film and theatre Ms. Brown’s performance covers a large repertoire of music, spanning the range from avant-garde to jazz standards (e.g., Ellington, Gershwin, Wheeler, Legrand and Porter) to spirituals and classical. In all of these areas, Jeri Brown’s performance is distinguished by a high level of artistry, musicality and unparalleled ability. Awards and achievements Composer Classical and contemporary JUNO - six nominations (Canada) Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (Canada) East Coast Music Association (Canada) Jazz Magazine – honored as one of top 50 jazz vocalists of all time (France) Jazzman - several awards of praise for recordings including CHOC de l'Année (France) Featured artist for international guests including President Koivisto of Finland, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, U.S. Advisor Vernon Jordan, U.S. Consul General Bernadette Allen, among many others. Chanteuse/songwriter/actress/producer Jeri Brown has performed in theatre, film and television in Europe and North America over the course of an illustrious career.Jeri's interests outside of music have led her to studies at Columbia University, New York University and The National Film School of Canada, all equipping her with oral cultural screenwriting and film production training. A quick study, Jeri Brown has already been awarded film credits for her roles as associate producer, musical director and creative consultant, in film productions for broadcasters of Canada, United States and Europe. Film Highlights 2008 Cherry Docs, screenplay by David Gow (pilot excerpt), film director R.H. Thomson 2006 Paul Simon Tribute, as artist coordinator, performer & choral director of Montreal Jazz Festival for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV featuring a host of international artists from Elvis Costello to Jamie Cullum 2005 Nina Simone Tribute in live video performance for Global TV, documented on DVD, featuring Onaje Allan Gumbs Trio 2004 Jeri Brown: The Spirit Comes Through (CBC, BRAVO, VISION-Canada broadcasts) 2002 Jeri Brown Performs: An Evening of Gershwin Concert (BET, BRAVO, World Affairs Productions-Canada & US broadcasts) 2001 Jeri Brown Concert featuring Jeri’s Spiritica Ensemble (Amerimage Productions, BRAVO, CBC-Canada broadcasts) 1998 Once Upon a Summertime: Jeri Brown à Paris (Northern Line Productions, IO Productions, Jongleur Productions- France broadcasts) In a 10-year period, Jeri has been filmed in over 20 performance documentaries for Canadian, US and European filmmakers including several performances for festivals, concert series and performance spectacles. Theatre Highlights 2013 Fathom! Musical theater production by playwright and composer, Jeri Brown, set in a kelp bed off the coast of Nova Scotia or anywhere off the coast in the ocean, the cast reflects on life and loss with narratives, dance and song stories in a stunning display of rich musicality and choreography. Book, score and song highlights recorded of musical title of same name for Jongleur Productions. 2013 First Ladies of Jazz This incredible show captures the quintessence of legendary singers including Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Carmen McRae, Roberta Flack, Angela Bofill, Eartha Kitt and Peggy Lee with dead on performances of some of their most beloved songs. 2012 Sojourner Truth – “...Ain’t I a Woman?” Jeri ignites the stage with a dramatic portrayal embodying the soul of historical abolitionist women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. 2012 Fathom! Musical theater production by playwright and composer, Jeri Brown, is a story of a fictional fantastical world deep beneath the ocean surface in the land of in between where characters inhabit a world where they have been separated from life existing in a state of reflection somewhere between life and non life. Set in a kelp bed off the coast of Nova Scotia or anywhere off the coast in the ocean, the cast reflects on life and loss with narratives, dance and song stories in a stunning display of rich musicality and choreography. 2005 Sempre Nina! Jeri performs a vocal theatre celebration of Nina classics plus new installments including Feelin’ Good, Four Women, Sinnerman, and See Line Woman. 2001 Image in the Mirror: The Triptych, Jeri's electrifying one-woman musical includes song highlights recorded of musical title of same name for Justin Time Records. 2001 Four Walls of Blue by playwright Jeri Brown features a 12-member cast, jazz band, and 18 compositions by Ms. Brown (26 show run showcasing some of Atlantic Canada's finest talents). 2000 936 Laurel by playwright Jeri Brown features a 6 member cast, jazz band, and 15 compositions by Ms. Brown. 1998 Gospel at Colonus Jeri portrays Ismene in the Canadian premiere and successful run of the Broadway musical. 1998 Voices of Sassy riveting vocal portrayal includes profiles of Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters and Ida Cox one- woman theatre performance. Jeri remains active in the theatre community, writing, performing and producing her own musicals for similar theatre stages through her own theatre company, Jongleur Productions, started by Jeri Brown in 2001. Jeri Brown's masterful signature vocal improvisations of contemporary and avant-garde jazz are best experienced live as she soars in effortless communication. Recordings with Leon Thomas, Avery Sharpe, Kenny Wheeler, Fred Hersch, Erik Truffaz, Tony Suggs, Don Thompson, Kenny Werner, D.D. Jackson, Don Braden, Fred Hersch, David Murray, Craig Handy and Seamus Blake provide wonderful examples. Jeri has written and recorded lyrics and melodies in collaboration with such composers as Avery Sharpe, Henry Butler, Kenny Wheeler, Cyrus Chestnut and Milton Sealey. Brown's choral arrangements of compositions by Abdullah Ibrahim, Jimmy Rowles, Leon Thomas and others along with her abilities as instrumental arranger have won Jeri special recognition.

My Jazz Story

Published on: 2018-05-01

From my childhood days in St. Louis I can still remember sitting at the top of the stairs of my grandparents' home while my uncle, trumpet player, Virgil Carter, rehearsed in the basement with fellow trumpeters and friends Clark Terry and Miles Davis. A brotherhood. I wasn't allowed to join them, of course, although I revered my uncle and wanted to do whatever he was doing. I savored every morsel of my rich life experiences and executed a master plan of training largely based on my curiosity and talent. Like a girl scout I believed in being ready for opportunities that would come my way in the wonderful vocal music industry..

My House Concert Story

• Jeri Brown brought down the house at her 2018 jazz opera premiere, Vera's Lament... a raving success at Halifax's Pier 21, Canadian Museum of Immigration for a three-day run Feb. 16, 17, 18 with musicians Woody Woods (p), Lukas Pearse (b), Gary Steed (d) & Holly Arsenault (keyboards). Featuring songs of Canadian musician Milton Sealy with actors Corey Adams and Linda Carvery and dancers Julio Fernandez and Brigitte Aucoin. Canada. • January 18, 2018. Chanteuse/songwriter/actress/producer Jeri Brown presents Oral Traditions of Cuba in a one-day workshop. Canada. • January 6 & 7, 2018. In wordless improvisation and occasional lyrical vocal expression...from familiar formats and not so familiar formats, vocal innovator Jeri Brown demonstrate commitment to the art of musical storytelling through the vehicles of vocal language, bass, keyboard technology and culture. Vocal improvisation through song melodies in a lively and creative improvised performance capturing a spirited interaction through originals, standards and free expression between vocalist, technology, pianist and bassist. Canada. Jeri Brown – voice, Holly Arsenault – piano, Lukas Pearse - bass • October 1, 2016. Chanteuse/songwriter/actress/producer Jeri Brown has performed in theatre, film and television in Europe and North America over he course of an illustrious career. This one-day workshop on oral traditions focuses on Africa and he way Africans are portrayed in films, narratives and music made for western audiences vs. their indigenous communities. Canada. • September 2016. Dalhousie University. In the Time of Summer by Jeri Brown CRWR Songwriting: Creative Writing for Lyric Forms workshop. Canada. • May 2016. Concordia University Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award recipient. * April 2016. Jeri Brown in concert at NCCU vocal jazz festival & master class. • January 18, 2018. Chanteuse/songwriter/actress/producer Jeri Brown presents Oral Traditions of Cuba in a one-day workshop. Canada. • 2015. Premiere Jeri Brown Jazz Opera Company Afro Waltz Opera starring mezzo Myrtle Thomas, soprano Kamilya Agoshkoff, and soprano Gwyn Beaver with Fulbright Scholar Baron Tymas (guitar) and Woody Woods (piano). Canada. • 2014. Jeri Brown concert, Helsinki Big Band and Storyville Jazz Club, featuring Jaana Maarala (p). Finland.