Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Brown, Anthony, drummer, composer, ethnomusicologist, bandleader; b. San Francisco, CA, 17 March 1953. He was raised in California, Japan, and Germany. His father was Willie Lee Brown, b. 11/7/27, d. 10/4/97, Sumter, SC (died: Savannah, GA). His mother is Sumi Ogita Brown, b. 10/19/24-, Tokyo, Japan. His brother Michael Lee Brown, b. 4/27/49-12/10/94, Tokyo, Japan (died: El Monte, CA), was a guitarist, bassist and vocalist; his other sinblings are Frederick Wilhelm Brown (b. 8/6/55, San Francisco, CA) and Andrew Alex Brown (3/29/61, San Francisco, CA).
Born on the Presidio of San Francisco the son of an African/Native American career soldier, Brown moved with his family to his mother's native Japan where he lived from age nine through thirteen. It was there that Brown first became interested in music, both American pop music and the Asian ambient music that recalled the lullabies and game songs taught to him by his mother. He ultimately chose to play drums but first learned the guitar in emulation of his older brother, Michael, who would later tour playing electric bass with Bo Diddley. Returning to California where his father was assigned in Los Angeles, Brown began playing in pop and R & B groups with flutist (then-bassist, vocalist) James Newton. Brown graduated from high school in Frankfurt, Germany with Honors where he studied music theory, counterpoint and orchestration, read Gothe's Faust in German, and switched focus from visual arts to music to attend college after his portfolio and art supplies were stolen.
Brown attended the University of Oregon from 1971-75 on an Army ROTC scholarship and majored in music and psychology. After graduation with a double Bachelors degree and being commissioned a Lieutenant, he was assigned to Athens, Greece as a NATO liaison officer for two years. He then served three years in Heidelberg, Germany as a Captain, commanding the US Army Chorus, Europe, a mixed chorus of 24 voices with a memorized repertoire of 60 songs in seven languages. While in Germany, Brown performed throughout Europe with visiting California jazz artists including James Newton, John Carter, William Parker, Billy Bang, Jemeel Moondoc, and David Murray.
After returning to the San Francisco Bay Area from overseas military service in 1980, Brown joined United Front, the seminal Asian American jazz quartet that received international critical acclaim for its performances and recordings. The group's integration of Asian instruments and musical concepts into jazz resonated with Brown's earliest musical influences. Brown's first recorded composition, "Acrophilia," appears on the 1982 United Front recording, Live in Berlin. Brown received his first commission from the San Francisco Chamber Music Society in 1983 to compose Incantation Suite, a collaboration for United Front and the Dolce Musica String Trio.
While teaching world music and percussion at the New College of California in San Francisco in 1984, Brown received an offer from Prentice Hall Publishers to write a book on percussion. Brown chose to focus on the drumset and visited the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey to conduct research. While there, he was offered a scholarship to earn his Masters in Music in Rutgers' inaugural graduate jazz studies program (1985-87). He studied with Noel DaCosta, Dan Morgenstern, Kenny Barron, Ed Blackwell and Keith Copeland, and worked as an archivist at the Institute of Jazz Studies. During this time, Brown also received Meet the Composer mini-grants to assist in the performances of his works in Atlanta (Emory University, 1986), Oakland (Koncepts Kultural Gallery, 1985), New Brunswick (Rutgers University, 1987) and New York where Incantation Suite was choreographed by Sharon Took and performed at Jose Limon Dance Studio in 1987. While in New York, Brown recorded, performed and toured internationally with James Newton (1985-92), Jon Jang and the Pan-Asian Arkestra (1987-92), and performed with Jang's sextet including Newton and David Murray (1993-94). Brown also performed with Anthony Davis and the San Francisco Symphony (1984), episteme in performance of Davis' opera, X (1985), Peter Kowald, David Ware, Butch Morris (1985-86), Mark Helias And Tim Bern (1987), and With Sirone and Jason Hwang (1987).
In 1987, Brown received a Ford Predoctoral Fellowship (1987-90) to complete his Ph.D. in music at the University of California, Berkeley. Brown chose ethnomusicology as his discipline, researching African, African American and Asian music with Olly Wilson, C.K. Ladzekpo, Gunther Schuller and Bonnie Wade. Returning to the Bay Area, Brown resumed composing works to perform with his colleagues. In 1988, Brown attended the Jazz in July program at Umass, Amherst, to study with Max Roach, Yusef Lateef and Billy Taylor. Later that year, Brown received a commission from the Ministry of Culture in Berlin. Brown wrote East/West Projekt for an international, intergender group of five American and five German (both East and West) jazz/improvising musicians. Brown toured nationally in 1990 with a music and poetry collaboration project, Sense Us, including Roach, Jang, and Sonia Sanchez. Brown also received a commission from Festival 2000 to compose Suite Oakland, a multimedia musical portrait of the port city's multicultural heritage. In 1991, Brown wrote Nikoku Suite, a commissioned commemoration for the tenth anniversary of the Asian American Jazz Festival.
Brown received a doctoral fellowship to conduct research at the Smithsonian Institution on the origins of jazz drumming and the drumset in the summer of 1988. The Smithsonian had just acquired the Duke Ellington archival collection and Brown was invited to return the next summer for a second research fellowship to assist in cataloging the collection's music. In 1991, Brown received an NEA grant for From Ragtime to Noh Time, a touring program on the history of jazz drumming. In 1992, Brown received a Humanities Research Institute Fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. Upon completion of his doctoral coursework at UC Berkeley, Brown was hired as a curator at the National Museum of American History from 1992-96. While at the Smithsonian, Brown reactivated the Jazz Oral History Program and Founded The Smithsonian Jazz Trio With Sir Roland Hanna and Keter Betts (1993-96). He continues to serve as a Smithsonian Associate Scholar and consultant.
Brown returned home to Berkeley to complete his Ph.D. dissertation on the development of modern jazz drumset performance and to record his most recent compositions. Never Again (M, Shimasen), was commissioned in 1994 by the Asian Heritage Council to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The work was composed during a six-week fellowship residency at the MacDowell Colony in the fall of 1994, and performed in collaboration with San Jose Taiko on August 6, 1995 at the Peace Plaza in San Francisco's Japantown. Anthony Brown and his music were featured in the 1995 film documentary, Doubles: Japan and America's Intercultural Children.
In 1996, the Rockefeller Foundation funded San Jose Taiko to create Traditions in Transformation, touring collaborative projects with Brown, Marco Lienhard and Qi Chao Liu. Brown's compositional contribution, E.O. 9066: Truth Be Told, was written to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Japanese American internment camps. It premiered at the Asia Society in New York City on June 7, 1996. E.O. 9066: Truth Be Told was presented within the full Traditions in Transformation program at the Japan America Theater in Los Angeles in May 1997.
From 1997-1999, Dr. Brown served as Director of Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, a Congressionally funded multimedia national educational program about the Japanese American internment experience of World War II. The program included a traveling exhibition, a website, symposia, and a radio program on the subject. The Asian American Jazz Orchestra was founded as a national touring octet to perform original compositions inspired and/or informed by the internment experience. Pacific Time, a weekly syndicated NPR news magazine features "Rhymes" as its theme music. In October 1998, Brown served as an artist-in-residence at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, where the Asian American Orchestra's Chicago debut was favorably received.
After the program's completion, Brown maintained the Asian American Orchestra to tour his works and arrangements with California Artists Management's booking support. Brown's first project for the newly formed twelve member intercultural ensemble was a reinterpretation of Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn's 1966 classic Far East Suite to commemorate the Ellington centennial in 1999. Brown's arrangement blends Asian instruments and sensibilities with the sonorities of a jazz orchestra, integrating the musical influences Ellington experienced on his State Department tour of the Middle East and India that inspired his homage to the people and countries that welcomed him. The Orchestra's recording of Far East Suite received a Grammy nomination in 2000 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance.
The Far East Suite initiated Brown's homage trilogy to American composers and exemplifies the intercultural musical process that evolved from his scholarly research and compositional endeavors. The Asian American Orchestra's Monk's Moods premiered at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in February 2000 and included Chinese hammered dulcimer virtuoso Yangqin Zhao and multi-instrumentalist Hong Wang from Melody of China, San Francisco's premier traditional Chinese music ensemble.
In April 2003, Anthony Brown received a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete his homage trilogy by recomposing Gershwin's original 1924 recorded version of Rhapsody In Blue. Brown recast Gershwin's classic portrait of roarin' 20s New York City as a 21st century reflection of our nation's demographic mosaic. Gershwin's original Rhapsody In Blue is essentially a piano showcase, whereas Brown's American Rhapsodies democratizes the soloistic features with improvisatory passages for various instruments, and by replacing the original piano with two chinese hammered dulcimers, electric guitar, and trinidadian steel drums. American Rhapsodies premiered at the Stern Grove Music Festival in San Francisco On July 4, 2004, it was scored For Jazz Orchestra and traditional instruments from Asia and the Caribbean, and performed by Anthon Brown's Orchestra, a sixteen-piece intercultural, intergender and intergenerational ensemble.
Dr. Brown served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, teaching a seminar on jazz composition since 1950 (Spring 1998), and a jazz theory and performance class, Intercultural Approaches to Jazz Performance (Spring 2002). Brown continues to direct, perform, compose for, tour and record with the intercultural, intergender and intergenerational Asian American Orchestra as the principal activity of his professional career.
He is married to Martha Taylor Faller Brown, born 9/27/53, New Britain, CT, piano. They have two daughters: Sumi Simone Brown (3/9/83, San Francisco, CA, vocalist, piano), Aiko Georgia Brown (7/5/90, Berkeley, CA, vocalist, percussion, piano, performs with Asian American Orchestra).
United Front: Ohm: Unit of Resistance (1981); George Sams: George Sams (1981); Ray Collins and Autumn: Autumn (1982); Jason Michaels: Crystallization of the Mind (1982); Jon Jang: Jang (1982), Are You Chinese or Charlie Chan? (1983); United Front: Live in Berlin (1983), United Front (1985), Hues (1985); James Newton: African Flower (1985), Water Mystery (1986); Pan-Asian Arkestra: Never Give Up! (1989); Mark Izu: Circle of Fire (1992); Daughters of the Yam: Fierce/Love (1992); Jon Jang and the Pan-Asian Arkestra: Self Defense! (1991), Tiananmen! (1993); Anthony Brown: Family (1996); Sounds Like 1996 (Music by Asian American Artists) (1996); Liu Qi Chao: Chi (1997); Desert Flower Ensemble: Legends and Legacies (1998); Jade Blue: Jade Blue (1998); Masaoka Orchestra: What's the Difference? (1998); Betty A. Siu Junn Wong: In Xinjiang Time (1998); Asian American Jazz Orchestra: Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire (1998), Monk's Moods (2002)
Outside In Sight: The Music of United Front (Rhapsody Films) (1986)
Doubles: Japan and America's Intercultural Children (CPB, NHK) (1995)
GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME! (UC Press, forthcoming in 2006)
"Quincy Jones," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Macmillan Publishers, Ltd.) (2001)
Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, thirteen music biographies (Simon & Schuster Macmillan) (1995)
The Gillespie Connection (Smithsonian Institution) (1992)
"Modern Jazz Drumset Artistry," in The Black Perspective in Music (1990)
Selected Commissioned Compositions:
American Rhapsodies, Guggenheim Fellowship (2004)
Bread and Bowie (For Lester), Jazz In Flight, Oakland (2001)
Traditions in Transformation/E.O.9066, Rockefeller Foundation (1996)
Never Again! (Mo, Shimasen), Asian Heritage Council (1995)
Kazoku (Family), Asian Improv aRts 'Commemorations' Festival (1993)
Nikoku Suite, Asian American Jazz Festival 10th Anniversary (1991)
East/West Jazz Projekt, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Berlin (1988)
Incantation Suite, San Francisco Chamber Music Society (1983)
Selected awards and funding:
Guggenheim Fellowship (Music Composition) (2004)
UC Irvine Chancellor's Distinguished Fellowship (2002)
Grammy nomination, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance (2000)
Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (Artist-in-Residence) (1998)
APPEX, Center for Intercultural Performance, UCLA (Collaborator) (1997)
Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Fund (Composer/Collaborator) (1995)
MacDowell Colony residency (Writer/Composer) (1994)
National Endowment for the Arts (Jazz Performance) (1991)
Meet the Composer (Atlanta, Berkeley, New Brunswick, New York) (1985-88)