Hartford Celebrates Paul Brown

Paul BrownHartford Celebrtes Paul Brown
by Matt Chasen

The events at Black Eyed Sally's last night were some of the most powerful, moving, compelling, meaningful and truly wonderful musical experiences, and perfect examples of the beauty of the human condition that I have ever experienced in my twenty-nine plus years of life. The weekly Monday Night Jazz Jam Session was turned into the party of all parties by trumpeter/flugelhornist/composer/educator/bandleader and producer of the series in question, Haneef N Nelson, as a tribute to a man who may be the ultimate embodiment of the term "Hartford legend/icon", bassist/educator/bandleader/crusader/advocate/visonary and all around amazing human being, Paul H Brown!!!!

Although many people throughout the world know the aforementioned individual by a myriad of different names, titles and roles that he has played in the musical universe, to those of us from the Greater Hartford Metropolitan Area, he will always be "PB". Were it not for the talent, "know-how", diligence, commitment, vision, creativity, worldliness, courage and intensity of Paul Brown, Hartford, Connecticut would not be the incredible musical haven that it is today. Paul Brown stood beside Jackie McLean, Dollie McLean and Cheryl Smith when the Artists Collective, a neighborhood cultural institution in Hartford's North End (originally on Clark Street, though now situated in a beautiful complex on the corner of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street, better known as Jackie McLean Way) was conceived in 1970. He founded the Monday Jazz In Bushnell Park Concert Series (initially titled the Hartford Festival of Jazz) in 1967, as well as the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz in 1992.

These events have brought countless world-class musical artists to the city of Hartford, generating untold streams of revenue for area businesses, exposing the community to icons who they perhaps may have otherwise never become aware of and also provided a "top-tier" setting for the best local performers to garner much needed and well-deserved exposure and prominence. The Library of Congress recognized the Monday Night Jazz In Bushnell Park Concert Series as the oldest, free, continuously run "jazz" festival in the nation. Paul Brown taught at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts for well over twenty years, where he mentored countless students who went on to forge critically-acclaimed careers of their own throughout the musical universe.

Paul has played with everyone, including but not limited to Dexter Gordon, Junior Cook, Bill Hardman, Barry Harris, Mickey Tucker, Lisle Atkinson, Al Haig, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter and Nina Simone among many others. He has received numerous awards from area institutions for his work in both the arts and throughout the community as a whole, including his efforts as a member of the Garden Area Neighborhood Council of the Community Renewal Team. I first met Paul Brown in the fall of 2002, as a junior in high school, splitting my time between the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Simsbury High School. I had the utmost honor and privilege of performing as a member of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Jazz Ensemble II, which was co-directed by Paul Brown and guitarist Jim Martin. This group featured the likes of Manuel Montas on trumpet, Daniel Tyner-Bryan on tenor saxophone, Shawn Bryant on trombone, Scott Drouin on guitar, Antony DiGennaro on guitar, Colin Dinnie on acoustic and electric bass, Caleb Herring on acoustic and electric bass, Leslie Forker on drums and percussion, Joe Abrams on drums and percussion, Krystle Rivera on drums and percussion and yours truly on tenor saxophone. Through material such as "Rancho Cevarro" and "The Crawl" by pianist Mickey Tucker, "Back At The Chicken Shack" by organist Jimmy Smith, "Speak No Evil" and "Wildflower" by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, "Freddie Freeloader" by trumpeter Miles Davis and many other important compositions, the members of the ensemble in question were able to begin to understand the intricacies of the so-called "jazz canon", augmented by the incredible first-hand experiences and stories related to us by Paul Brown.

The festivities at Black Eyed Sally's last night were a virtual "who's who" of musicians in the Greater Hartford Metropolitan Area, with everyone coming together to show their love for Paul Brown and all that he has given to us. I know that I will miss numerous "titans" as I attempt to list those present, but a sampling of the phenomenal artists who celebrated Paul last night included saxophonist Frank Kozyra, saxophonist Peter Greenfogel, multi-instrumentalist Orice Jenkins, bassist Leo Catricala, drummer/percussionist Tido Holtkamp, drummer/percussionist Billy Arnold, pianist/vocalist Warren Byrd, multi-instrumentalist Saskia Laroo, saxophonist Luminous Black, saxophonist Albert Rivera, pianist Zaccai Curtis, pianist King Solomon (Damian Curtis), pianist Mike Biagio Carabello, saxophonist Alden Hellmuth, saxophonist Norman Gage, pianist Jonathan Chatfield, drummer/percussionist Ben Bilello, bassist Paul Fuller, bassist Stephen KingPorter, pianist Dan Fine, trumpeter John Hasselback II, bassist Nat Reeves, pianist Donny DePalma, trumpeter/flugelhornist Haneef Nelson, drummer/percussionist Michael Scott, percussionist Abu Carter and countless others.

A beautiful cake was baked by Abby Curtis and presented to PB, and of course Ted Curtis was there bringing positively powerful vibes to all present. We are so fortunate to have talented photographers, musical aficionados and kindred spirits Maurice D. Robertson, Hampton G. Lewis and Joseph Chandler in our midsts, because their work is able to document the most meaningful events of this particular nature. Thank you, thank you, thank you for absolutely everything that you continue to do for the musical scene in the Greater Hartford Area and beyond, Paul Brown. None of us would be where we are today without your perseverance and fortitude. We love you, brother!!!! Keep swingin'!!!! The flame burns eternally!!!! ‪

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