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Vernell Brown, Jr. 

Vernell Brown, Jr. was discovered as a teenager when he performed as a substitute pianist at a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences “Grammy In The Schools” program. The chance substitution brought Vernell to the attention of the co-founder of A&M Records, Jerry Moss who contracted Vernell to record eight CDs.

As an 18-year old recording his debut album A Total Eclipse, Vernell had the opportunity to play alongside such illustrious veterans as saxophonist Ernie Watts, bassist Marcus Miller, John Pattitucci, Neil Stubenhause, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr., and Pat Kelley, drummers Stix Hooper and Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Lenny Castro, and trumpeter and A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert.

The project was designed to introduce listeners to the youth’s already remarkable signature-style and range of musical interests.  Producer Stix Hooper, a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders, lent his insight in providing a fitting backdrop for the jazz project and seasoned it with soul, pop, and R&B.  

Stix Hooper states, "This debut album of Vernell Brown Jr., is an artistic contribution to our planet of significant musical depth, vision and direction.  Vernell at the young age of eighteen, has been given from the Supreme Source, the talent, wisdom, and creative skills necessary to communicate to us, music we can incorporate into our lives.”

Vernell then released the album Stay Tuned on A&M, taking a more aggressive route, playing with his own band The Nucleus; two tracks, Whoever You Are and Everybody Needs A Friend, features a vocal collaboration with lyricist Will Jennings.

Starting early in life opened a path to becoming a life-long musician; even as a child Vernell practiced frequently, was surrounded by other musicians, chose his own instruments, and began taking lessons. Vernell started playing piano as a 4 year-old, drums from age 3 to 13.  Vernell picked up the violin when he was 8 and focused on that instrument until high school, but continued with the piano throughout. 

In high school Vernell studied with composer and pianist Terry Trotter and renowned jazz vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake, under whose tutelage Vernell developed quickly. He was recognized by Yamaha and gifted a grand piano and several other keyboards. He was a finalist at the 1988 and 1989 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competitions.

Vernell has collaborated with everyone from Herb Alpert to, Jeffrey Osborne, Ronnie Laws and extensively with Gladys Knight starting in 1998, touring in Europe and the United States. He then recorded Just For You with Gladys and enjoyed a two-year performance show at the prestigious Flamingo Hilton Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, listed as the number one show on the strip for a four-year period. 

Vernon Jarrett of the Chicago Sun Times wrote of Vernell, "His followers say he's forever in the process of composing a great new Jazz that celebrates his ancestors’ triumphant past and the hopes of his generation.  When Brown composes, arranges and plays out his innermost feelings, his listeners are inspired to live and change the world in which they live…”

In 1994 Vernell teamed with LA Music Awards nominee Windy Karigianes, to co-write the widely-acclaimed Butterfly, featuring Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters’ Mike Clark and Paul Jackson— Butterfly became a hit single. 

He has also appeared on releases by Craig T. Cooper on Caught Up in a Moment, 1999 and Ronnie Laws, Dream a Little, 2000 and A Tribute to the Legendary Eddy Harris.

In 2004 Vernell joined the Kenny Garrett Quintet.  Garrett, a post-bop jazz saxophonist and flautist, gained recognition in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, also playing with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw. Vernell recorded Standard of Language and Happy People with the quintet.

With the Kenny Garrett Quintet, Vernell has traveled the world, averaging 40 venues a month and performing at premier international jazz festivals including:The Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, The Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa, The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, The Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days in Poland, Jazz à Toulon Festival in France, The Atina Jazz Festival in Italy, Get Closer Jazz Fest in Budapest, Hungary, Port au Prince Int’l Jazz Fest in Haiti, Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, Washington, DC Jazz Festival, The North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands and more.

The vigorous touring schedule with Kenny, affords Vernell the opportunity to perform at the world’s top jazz clubs. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, Tramjazz in Rome, Bimhulus in Amsterdam, Preservation Hall in New Orleans, The Blue Note in Tokyo, San Francisco Jazz Center and Blues Alley in DC are favorites, to name a very few. Vernell’s ultimate favorite is The Blue Note in San Francisco.

Vernell performed on the 2013 release of Pushing the World Away, which earned Garrett a Grammy nomination; it peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart.

In his downtime, Vernell enjoys working with developing youth musicians and has conducted a workshop the Las Vegas Academy for the Arts.
Over the years, many fellow jazz musicians have wondered how Vernell creates his unusual chord progressions and rhythmic patterns. In 2018 Vernell began putting down his explorations on paper, which he’d been doing since high school. The result is the much-anticipated book, The Alpha Pattern Method; A Theory of Composition and Improvisation.

Most recently, Vernell was the featured artist on the New York City recording sessions in 2019 with the Kenny Garrett Quintet: it is anticipated that the resulting album will be released in 2021.

Vernell is currently working on his latest studio-recording project, a compilation of original materials composed and collected over many years.

Future looking, Vernell is determined to bring one of his dreams to fruition; he plans to perform some of his Alpha Patterns compositions with a symphonic orchestra and chamber orchestra, which he would arrange for piano, contra bass, cello, viola and violins.


 Grammy Nominations:

Kenny Garrett’s Pushing The World Away