ANTHONY BROWN's ASIAN AMERICAN ORCHESTRA
"Five-star MASTERPIECE, one of four 'Best CDs of 2003.' Brown (percussionist, arranger and 2003 Guggenheim winner) pits imaginative, crisp adaptations of Hall Overton's purling charts for Monk's big band in bold relief with gleaming settings for unusual solos. From the opening erhu solo of "Monk's Mood," this earthshaking date heralds a new dawn for Monk's eternal book. . . . Sonorities are amazingly evocative-pastiche actually enhances dramatic effect; alto clarinet and mouth harp give a bizarre opening to "Brilliant Corners. "
"Steve Lacy has been recording Monk's music for over forty years now, and his appearance on this album as a guest soloist takes the band on an elevator ride right to the top shelf of jazz interpretations. Lacy on Monk's 'Hackensack' creates a classic solo that sounds like no one else."
NPR JAZZ CD REVIEW
"Steve Lacy, guesting with the orchestra, is a featured soloist on several tracks. His soprano jinks and oozes through tracks like "Hackensack" and "Misterioso" with a sassy confidence that shows why he's arguably our premier Monk interpreter. The Orchestra's regular members make fine contributions, too: I particularly enjoyed trombonist Wayne Wallace, and Brown himself, whose versatile percussion provides a judicious stream of color and punctuation. Favorite moments include "Jackie-ing," with its clangorous brass-as-gamelan arrangement, and the closing "Pannonica," an enchanting duo for Yangqin Zhao's delicately plangent dulcimer and Lacy's tender soprano. But Monk's Moods fascinates throughout; it's a very impressive piece of work."
Under the direction of percussionist, composer and ethnomusicologist Anthony Brown, the Asian American Orchestra has received international critical acclaim for their blending of Asian musical instruments and sensibilities with the sonorities of the jazz orchestra. The Orchestra's previous CD, a reinterpretation of Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn's Far East Suite, received a 2000 Grammy? nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. Jazz saxophonist, MacArthur genius grant recipient Steve Lacy, multi-instrumentalist Hong Wang and hammered dulcimer virtuoso Yangqin Zhao joined the Orchestra to record "Monk's Moods," featuring new interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions in collaboration with Monk's original producer, Orrin Keepnews.
The Asian American Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1997 for a national, multimedia, touring project about the Japanese American internment experience of World War II. Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra is currently comprised of Anthony Brown (percussion), Danny Bittker (woodwinds), Louis Fasman (trumpet), Henry Hung (trumpet), Mark Izu (bass, Chinese mouth organ), Masaru Koga (saxophones, shakuhachi), Melecio Magdaluyo (woodwinds, percussion) Dave Martell (trombone, tuba), Hafez Modirzadeh (Western and Persian woodwinds, percussion), and Wayne Wallace (trombone).
Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra has appeared at the Earshot, Chicago and Monterey Jazz Festivals, SFJAZZ Spring Festival, the San Francisco and Chicago Asian American Jazz Festivals, the Eddie Moore Jazz festival, the Smithsonian Institution, Orpheum Theater, Phoenix, Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Meany Hall at the University of Washington, Seattle, the Carpenter Center at CSU Long Beach, and the Singletary Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.
In April 2003, Anthony Brown was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition. He will recompose George Gershwin's 1924 Rhapsody In Blue for a 21-member intercultural, intergender and intergenerational orchestra blending Asian, Latin, Middle Eastern and indigenous American instruments and sensibilities with those of the jazz orchestra. This project will premiere at the Smithsonian Institution in April 2004.
Anthony Brown earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in music (ethnomusicology) from UC Berkeley, as well as a Master of Music degree in jazz performance from Rutgers University. He recently served as a visiting professor of music at UC Berkeley, and previously as Curator of American Musical Culture and Director of the Jazz Oral History Program at the Smithsonian Institution from 1992-96. Dr. Brown is the recipient of grants, awards, and commissions from the Ford Foundation, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, Meet the Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, Asian Heritage Council, Arts International, Ministry of Culture in Berlin, and the MacDowell Colony. He and his music are featured in the film documentaries, "Doubles: Japan and America's Intercultural Children," "Outside in Sight: The Music of United Front," and on the Orchestra's debut CD, "Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire." Dr. Brown also performs on over twenty other recordings on Asian Improv, Soul Note, Blue Note, Gramavision, Hat Hut, and RPM Records. He performed in the premiere of Anthony Davis' opera, "X--The Life and Times of Malcolm X," and as a guest artist with the San Francisco Symphony. He formed the Smithsonian Jazz Trio with Sir Roland Hanna and Keter Betts, and has collaborated with Max Roach, Cecil Taylor, Billy Taylor, Zakir Hussain, Andrew Hill, Oliver Lake, John Handy, Julius Hemphill, David Murray, George Lewis, Butch Morris, Sirone, Wadada Leo Smith, and with poets Sonia Sanchez, Janice Mirikitani, Jayne Cortez, Victor Hernandez Cruz, and Genny Lim. He recorded and toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe from 1978-94 with flutist James Newton, Jon Jang and the Pan-Asian Arkestra, and with the jazz quartet, United Front.