Alex Brown - pianist and composer
EMOTION. SPACE. VISION. GROOVE….
The understated virtuosity of pianist Alex Brown is a clear indication that reports of jazz music’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Fast emerging at the forefront of a new generation of artists, Brown is mightily armed with the technique of jazz tradition, reinvested with fresh curiosity and vision for what jazz is, and can be.
Featured in the January 2010 issue of Keyboard Magazine, Alex Brown’s reputation continues expanding via his notable performances with everyone from innovative saxophonist Miguel Zenon to the legendary Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. “A really fine record that leaves you wanting more,” said DownBeat magazine of Pianist, Alex Brown’s 2010 debut CD (Sunnyside), further emphasizing “…and Brown can play!” That is something jazz audiences throughout the world have been discovering since 2007, when he joined the group of the renowned Paquito D’Rivera, sharing in the ensemble’s 2010 Grammy nomination as a part of D'Rivera's album, "Jazz-Clazz."
In addition to touring with D’Rivera, Alex Brown performs regularly as the leader of his own jazz ensemble. “There are those who only play what audiences like,” says Alex. “Then there are those who only play what they want. I’m drawn to music that has complexity but that anyone can enjoy.” Classical, rhythm & blues, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian styles all co-mingle – naturally and infectiously – in Brown’s music, reflecting his unique path, and the continued evolution of the genre.
It was D’Rivera’s bassist, Oscar Stagnaro, who was among the first to recognize Alex Brown’s special gifts, and began to gig with the young student around Boston. Stagnaro also hipped Brown to the depth and breadth of Latin-American rhythms. “He really expanded my conception of Latin music beyond ‘Afro-Cuban’,” says Brown. “Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, Puerto Rico… each has their own rich, complex rhythmic traditions. And a lot of those rhythms don’t incorporate piano, so it becomes a slightly different thing, when you translate it into jazz.” During an impromptu 2007 performance at Washington DC’s Bossa Lounge as part of the DC Jazz Fest, Stagnaro invited Brown’s soon-to-be mentor, Paquito D’Rivera, to hear him for the first time. “He stayed for the first half of the gig, and then gave me his card,” says Brown. “Then… Nothing.” Thinking he’d blown it, Brown received a call from the jazz icon about a month later. “You sounded pretty good,” said Paquito, “even on that plastic piano!” And so began his professional career.
Now in Alex Brown’s rear-view mirror are appearances at some of the worlds top jazz venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Birdland and the Blue Note in New York (and Tokyo), Blues Alley in Washington DC, and Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes. His festival appearances include the Heineken Jazz Festival, Israel’s Red Sea Jazz Festival, the Panama Jazz Festival, and the Curacao Jazz Festival. In addition, he teaches and has led master classes at such institutions as the University of Panama.
In 2009, Brown graduated with a Bachelor of Music from New England Conservatory where he studied with Danilo Perez and Charlie Banacos, among others. His collection of notable awards began well before graduation, however, starting with ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards in 2003 and 2004. In 2007, Alex was a winner as a pianist in the Jazz Soloist category of Downbeat Magazine's Student Music Awards (his first of five honors from the storied jazz chronicle). In 2009, the group LaTimbistica, which he was a part of while at NEC, won for best college group. Also an accomplished classical musician, Alex has recorded and performed with the group Imani Winds as well as with the clarinetist Sabine Meyer, and has performed with major orchestras in the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Spain.
Looking ahead, Alex Brown’s horizon is one devoid of hard and fast barriers – musical or otherwise. “The internet is changing things and opening things up so quickly,” says Brown. “You don’t have to wait for the record to come out. As soon as something happens, it’s out there.” Having recently completed his first commission for full concert orchestra (of a salsa hit, no less), Brown plans on doing more large-scale arranging and composing.
As for the rest of what’s next, Alex Brown knows precisely where he’s going but, as with most artists, he prefers to let his music tell the story. “I have a lot of trouble coming up with a title,” says Brown. “That’s one of the reasons I write music. I get these feelings that I can’t put into words.” Clear and inviting, Alex Brown’s music gives eloquent voice to a singular talent on the move.