Voice as an instrument
History and early training
Along with performances with the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Jeri began performing more stylistic renditions of standards from theatre, film and pop culture.
Drummer and renowned bandleader Bob McKee, former percussionist on the long- running Mike Douglas television series, invited Jeri to become lead singer in several of his combos in Ohio. This exposure and training led to performances with many renowned artists including Ellis Marsalis, Billy Taylor and Dizzy Gillespie. It was also during this period that Ms. Brown was encouraged to improvise in concert with such emerging artists as Joe Lovano.
Jeri Brown then rapidly moved into the front rank of jazz vocalists from the Cleveland area as resident vocalist with The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. Besides focusing on classic jazz standards, she developed as an accomplished lyricist, recitalist, concert soloist and recording artist, and has become one of the world's most respected jazz vocalists.
Committed to the legacy of vocal jazz, Ms. Brown’s performances fill the historical spectrum of classic American songbook themes, original jazz compositions, and contemporary world themes with intense vocal improvisations, and include collaborations with diverse, legendary jazz artists.
Jeri Brown has performed or recorded with such musicians as Leon Thomas, Betty Carter, Oscar Brown Jr., John Hicks, Grady Tate, Kirk Lightsey, John B. Williams, Ellis Marsalis, Erik Truffaz, David Murray, John Blake, Jr., D.D. Jackson, Craig Handy, Billy Hart, Kenny Werner, Pierre Michelot, John Betsch, Alain Jean-Marie, James Williams, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Fred Hersch, Stephen Scott, Tony Suggs, Michel Donato, Roy McCurdy, Winard Harper, Chico Freeman, Joe Lovano, Duane Eubanks, Cyrus Chestnut, Dr. Billy Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Avery Sharpe, Rufus Reid, Yoron Israel, Gerry Gibbs, Mon David, Vic Vogel, Michel Donato, Don Thompson, Seamus Blake and Jimmy Rowles.
As an avant-garde vocalist Jeri’s commitment to improvisation is evidenced by consistent recordings and performances of new and established composers including Kenny Wheeler, Kirk Lightsey, Avery Sharpe, John Blake Jr., David Murray, D. D. Jackson, Kenny Werner, Cyrus Chestnut, John Betsch, Alain Jean-Marie, Jobic Le Masson, Pierre de Bethmann, Fred Hersch, Craig Handy and Erik Truffaz. Always interpreting song with her unique artistry, Jeri’s tribute performances have included Nina Simone, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Angela Bofill, Roberta Flack and Mahalia Jackson.
Her current theatrical performance project First Ladies of Jazz celebrates some of Jeri’s favorite artists and demonstrates Jeri’s commitment to vocal education and performance art. The 2012 project Sojourner Truth – “...Ain’t I a Woman?” with acclaimed jazz bassist and composer Avery Sharpe as part of sextet performance project launched yet another theatrical venture for Ms. Brown.
Venue highlights in Europe: Cluj Opera House (Romania), La Villette Performance Hall (Paris), Italia Concert Hall (Genoa), Jazz à Vienne Roman Amphitheatre (France), San Sebastian Amphitheatre (Spain); La Villa (Paris); in U.S. and Canada: Blue Note (NY), Kennedy Center (DC), Glenn Gould Theatre (Toronto); Culver Arts Center (TX), Jazz Standard (NY), Sweet Basil (NY), Blues Alley (NY), Los Angeles County Museum of the Arts, Bakers (MI), Salle Gésu (Montreal), Place des Arts (Montreal), Spectrum (Montreal), Club Soda (Montreal), and Senator (Toronto).
Festival highlights in U.S. and Europe: Litchfield Jazz Festival (CT), Akbank Jazz Festival (Turkey), Jazz à Vienne (France), Parthenay Jazz Festival (France), Montauban Jazz Festival (France), San Sebastian Jazz Festival (Spain), Cascais FNAC Festival (Portugal), Cleveland Jazz Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival; in Canada: Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, and Atlantic Jazz Festival.
In 2001, Jeri Brown created her own record label, Jongleur Productions, committed to providing a forum for the creation of music yet untapped by Ms. Brown as well as for her productions with new or lesser-known talent worldwide. The first successful release from Jongleur – Sempre Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone – received rave reviews and features Jeri with Canadian guitarist Al Sutherland. Her most recent release – Storytelling – with American west coast pianist Woody Woods was nominated for Canada’s East Coast Music Award in 2012. Other Jongleur projects have included: Jeri Brown Live in Paris 2008, featuring Paris performances at the Sunside Jazz Club with band members Jobic Le Masson (piano), Peter Giron (bass) and legendary drummer John Betsch along with Radio France concert recordings with Pierre de Bethmann on piano. The 2010 release of Improvisations in Song received similar acclaim and features Jeri Brown with guest Canadian guitarist Roddy Ellias. The upcoming Jongleur releases Jeri Brown: Vocal Artistry–First Ladies of Jazz, Jeri Brown: Tribute to Duke Ellington, and His Name is Golden Sky are due in 2013. Jeri hopes to record annually on the Jongleur label while continuing her recording presence with Justin Time Records. New Wonderland, Jeri's tenth album for Justin Time Records, was released in spring of 2007.
Classical and contemporary
Featured in these stunning jazz productions is a pool of dedicated Canadian and international musicians. Ms. Brown boasts a veritable array of artists including Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson, Michel Donato, Kirk Lightsey, Jeff Johnston, Joe Sullivan, Rémi Bolduc, Simon Sloutsker and Wali Muhamad, as well as renowned guests Avery Sharpe, Kenny Werner, Stephen Scott, Tony Suggs, Woody Woods, Don Braden, John Hicks, Erik Truffaz, John Betsch, Billy Hart, Curtis Lundy and Fred Hersch.
Film and theatre
In all of these areas, Jeri Brown’s performance is distinguished by a high level of artistry, musicality and unparalleled ability.
Awards and achievements
Classical and contemporary
Featured artist for international guests including President Koivisto of Finland, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, U.S. Advisor Vernon Jordan, U.S. Consul General Bernadette Allen, among many others.
2008 Cherry Docs, screenplay by David Gow (pilot excerpt), film director R.H. Thomson
2006 Paul Simon Tribute, as artist coordinator, performer & choral director of Montreal Jazz Festival for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV featuring a host of international artists from Elvis Costello to Jamie Cullum
2005 Nina Simone Tribute in live video performance for Global TV, documented on DVD, featuring Onaje Allan Gumbs Trio
2004 Jeri Brown: The Spirit Comes Through (CBC, BRAVO, VISION-Canada broadcasts)
2002 Jeri Brown Performs: An Evening of Gershwin Concert (BET, BRAVO, World Affairs Productions-Canada & US broadcasts)
2001 Jeri Brown Concert featuring Jeri’s Spiritica Ensemble (Amerimage Productions, BRAVO, CBC-Canada broadcasts)
1998 Once Upon a Summertime: Jeri Brown à Paris (Northern Line Productions, IO Productions, Jongleur Productions-France broadcasts)
In a 10-year period, Jeri has been filmed in over 20 performance documentaries for Canadian, US and European filmmakers including several performances for festivals, concert series and performance spectacles.
2013 Fathom! Musical theater production by playwright and composer, Jeri Brown, set in a kelp bed off the coast of Nova Scotia or anywhere off the coast in the ocean, the cast reflects on life and loss with narratives, dance and song stories in a stunning display of rich musicality and choreography. Book, score and song highlights recorded of musical title of same name for Jongleur Productions.
2013 First Ladies of Jazz This incredible show captures the quintessence of legendary singers including Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Carmen McRae, Roberta Flack, Angela Bofill, Eartha Kitt and Peggy Lee with dead on performances of some of their most beloved songs.
2012 Sojourner Truth – “...Ain’t I a Woman?” Jeri ignites the stage with a dramatic portrayal embodying the soul of historical abolitionist women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.
2012 Fathom! Musical theater production by playwright and composer, Jeri Brown, is a story of a fictional fantastical world deep beneath the ocean surface in the land of in between where characters inhabit a world where they have been separated from life existing in a state of reflection somewhere between life and non life. Set in a kelp bed off the coast of Nova Scotia or anywhere off the coast in the ocean, the cast reflects on life and loss with narratives, dance and song stories in a stunning display of rich musicality and choreography.
2005 Sempre Nina! Jeri performs a vocal theatre celebration of Nina classics plus new installments including Feelin’ Good, Four Women, Sinnerman, and See Line Woman.
2001 Image in the Mirror: The Triptych, Jeri's electrifying one-woman musical includes song highlights recorded of musical title of same name for Justin Time Records.
2001 Four Walls of Blue by playwright Jeri Brown features a 12-member cast, jazz band, and 18 compositions by Ms. Brown (26 show run showcasing some of Atlantic Canada's finest talents).
2000 936 Laurel by playwright Jeri Brown features a 6 member cast, jazz band, and 15 compositions by Ms. Brown.
1998 Gospel at Colonus Jeri portrays Ismene in the Canadian premiere and successful run of the Broadway musical.
1998 Voices of Sassy riveting vocal portrayal includes profiles of Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters and Ida Cox one-woman theatre performance.
Jeri remains active in the theatre community, writing, performing and producing her own musicals for similar theatre stages through her own theatre company, Jongleur Productions, started by Jeri Brown in 2001.
Jeri has written and recorded lyrics and melodies in collaboration with such composers as Avery Sharpe, Henry Butler, Kenny Wheeler, Cyrus Chestnut and Milton Sealey. Brown's choral arrangements of compositions by Abdullah Ibrahim, Jimmy Rowles, Leon Thomas and others along with her abilities as instrumental arranger have won Jeri special recognition.