BPACC Show­case flows in with trib­ute to Elling­ton

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music - By Jon W. Sparks

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Satur­day night will swing in Bartlett: Grammy-nom­i­nated pi­anist/com­poser Don­ald Brown and pop­u­lar lo­cal vo­cal­ist Joyce Cobb are the fea­tured per­form­ers at the Bartlett Sum­mer Sym­phony Pops Con­cert’s “Sym­phonic All-Duke Elling­ton Night” at the Bartlett Per­form­ing Arts and Con­fer­ence Cen­ter.

The trib­ute to Elling­ton, with the or­ches­tra led by Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis’ Dr. Jack Cooper, kicks off the BPACC Show­case Se­ries and hon­ors one of Amer­ica’s most in­flu­en­tial com­posers.

“I think of Duke as the pre­miere jazz com­poser of the 20th cen­tury,” Brown said. “Ev­ery ma­jor pi­anist that fol­lowed him — from Th­elo­nious Monk to Ah­mad Jamal, Os­car Peter­son, James Wil­liams and my­self — was in­flu­enced by him.”

Brown is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mu­sic at the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee, Knoxville, teach­ing jazz com­po­si­tion and pi­ano. His in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion was earned play­ing with

top jazz names, in­clud­ing as a mem­ber of Art Blakey’s Jazz Mes­sen­gers.

Brown has been lauded for his Grammy-nom­i­nated com­po­si­tion “The In­sane Asy­lum,” heard on Wyn­ton Marsalis’ al­bum “J Mood.”

“As a com­poser, Duke was such a big in­flu­ence on me and the way I write things,” Brown says. “So much of his in­flu­ence comes in the way he struc­tured his melodies and har­monic pro­gres­sions.”

Brown’s ca­reer was shaped when he at­tended then-Mem­phis State Uni­ver­sity in the early 1970s.

“Meet­ing James Wil­liams in 1972 was re­ally huge in terms of some­one who nur­tured me and got me to­wards what jazz is about,” Brown said. “James took me to jazz clubs and through him I got to hear Phineas New­born play many nights and got to know him fairly well.”

Brown en­coun­tered other jazz pow­er­houses with strong Mem­phis con­nec­tions such as Ge­orge Cole­man, Frank Strozier, Harold Mabern, Bill Easley and Earl Thomas.

“As a young mu­si­cian it was re­ally eye open­ing, a real awak­en­ing be­ing ex­posed to such mu­si­cians at a young age,” he says.

Pi­anist/com­poser Don­ald Brown, who joins Joyce Cobb Satur­day night, calls Duke Elling­ton a ma­jor in­flu­ence.

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