Mel Brown and Gordon Lee with the PJCE
Portland Metro Arts – Sunday, August 18 – 8:10 p.m.
Montavilla Jazz Festival 2019 Sunday Headliner
Mel Brown and Gordon Lee with the PJCE
A celebration of their thirty-three year musical partnership, Mel Brown and Gordon Lee reunite to perform Lee’s original works arranged for this performance with the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble.
Mel Brown was born in Portland in 1944. In high school Brown was involved with the Portland Junior Symphony. He later attended Portland State University, and during that time played/recorded with Billy Larkin & The Delegates on Aura/World Pacific/Liberty Records. Brown graduated from Portland State University and moved to Vancouver where he got a steady gig playing with the guitarist Tommy Chong. Martha Reeves happened to be at one of his gigs and hired him in 1967. Brown’s time with Martha Reeves led to a contract with Motown Records, and led to Brown recording with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye.
In 1973, Brown moved back to Portland Oregon, and soon after formed a trio with George Mitchell and Phil Baker. For two years that trio toured with Diana Ross. Brown owned and operated the Mel Brown Drum Shop until 1984 and then opened a bookkeeping service, Metropolitan Accounting and Tax. He maintained his music career performing throughout Pacific Northwest. Later, Brown formed the Mel Brown Sextet, which performed weekly at The Hobbit in Southeast Portland. Brown had the opportunity to record and play with Leroy Vinnegar and the two of them started a Hammond B-3 organ quintet.
In the 1990s, Brown was added to the board of directors for the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. He created the Mel Brown Jazz Camp at Western Oregon University. In 1999 Brown was inducted into the Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame. Throughout his career he also played and performed with the Oregon Symphony. Brown continues to live in Portland and still runs his accounting company by day. He holds annual jazz camps at Western Oregon University, and plays regularly with his B3 Organ Group at the Jack London Revue in Portland.
Gordon Lee is a pianist composer, arranger, and educator who has travelled the world performing in Paris, Germany, Vienna, Tokyo, Lima, and Istanbul. Lee has been a featured performer at the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz, the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, the JFK Center for the Performing Arts, and the Smithsonian Institute for Native American Art. He performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Oregon Festival Symphony, and the Oregon Symphony.
Lee moved to Portland in 1977 and began performing with Native American saxophonist, songwriter, and jazz-rock fusion innovator, Jim Pepper, an association that would continue until the saxophonist’s death in 1992. Together they performed throughout North America and Europe. Later, Lee spent several years working as a jazz pianist in New York City, performing with Don Cherry, Bobby Hutcherson, Dewey Redman, Houston Person, Richie Cole, Frank Foster, Bill Frisell, Leroy Vinegar, Bob Moses, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Bobby Vinton, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and The Temptations.
In 1985 Lee moved back to Portland joining Motown drummer Mel Brown’s band the next year. In 1989 The Mel Brown Sextet, performing Lee’s pieces and arrangements, won the International Hennessy Jazz Search. The following year, Lee’s recording, Gordon Bleu, won Best Jazz Recording of 1990 from the Northwest Music Association. Lee’s association with Mel Brown continues to this day.
The Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble is a 12-piece jazz chamber orchestra which commissions and performs original works by its members and by other jazz composers in the Portland music community and beyond. It is our mission to operate a large musical ensemble, to commission and perform original works by members of the ensemble and by other jazz composers in the Portland music community and elsewhere, to act as a forum for the development and presentation of works for large ensemble by established and emerging jazz composers, and to engage and enrich community awareness and appreciation of contemporary music. We also operate a grassroots label, PJCE Records, which releases albums of original music by local jazz artists.
Lineup: Mel Brown, drums; Gordon Lee, piano and compositions; Lee Elderton, Tim Willcox, alto sax; Renato Caranto and John Gross, tenor sax; Mieke Bruggeman, bari sax; Justin Copeland, Noah Simpson, Douglas Detrick, trumpets; Stan Bock, Denzel Mendoza, and Adriana Wagner, trombones; Ryan Meagher, guitar; Ed Bennett, bass
Mel Brown – drums
Gordon Lee – piano and compositions
Lee Elderton – alto sax
Renato Caranto – tenor sax
John Gross – tenor sax
Mieke Bruggeman – bari sax
Douglas Detrick – trumpet
Thomas Barber – trumpet
Paul Mazzio – trumpet
Lars Campbell – trombone
Matthew Hettwer – trombone
Stan Bock – trombone
Ryan Meagher – guitar
Ed Bennett – bass