Brian Browne
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Brian Browne

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Band Jazz Acoustic


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"Brian Browne"

Brian Browne remembers Oscar Peterson

By phum Tue, Nov 10 2009

Just a little more than a year ago, Brian Browne, the dean of Ottawa's jazz pianists, gave a performance with his trio at the NAC's Fourth Stage that was videotaped for Browne's first DVD. He's back with his trio at the Fourth Stage this Saturday, and this time he'll have copies of the DVD for sale.

To bring home how significant Browne is in terms of not only Ottawa jazz lore but Canadian jazz history, I asked Browne for a recap of his meetings circa the early 1960s with his great inspiration and teacher, Oscar Peterson. Browne, who commute from Ottawa to Toronto for two years to learn from Peterson, wrote me:

Before I met Oscar, I went to the Town Tavern to hear his trio a few times. When I came home, I wouldn’t -- couldn’t -- touch the piano for several days.

I met him first at his home when I went to Toronto with drummer, Doug Johnston. Naturally, I was in awe and quite intimidated by him. He was congenial and friendly. This was in the summer before I attended his school. (ASCM), Advanced School of Contemporary Music.

The first thing I had to do when I met him at the school was play something… his office…just him and me. Yikes! I played Ill Wind, I had learned it off his recording. When I finished, he said “go buy the sheet music.”

I never did.

I had my own way of playing before I started there, could swing and all. He didn’t really teach me what or how to play. No doubt though, he was my biggest influence on records. What I mostly got from him was inspiration.

He would sit on the bench to my left and play the bass and chord changes like a madman and I would start out feebly playing some tune on the rest of the piano. After a chorus or two of my timid attempt to play along, I’d sort of coast to a stop and mutter something like “Whew. OK, I see," or "Oh yeah,” letting him know that I was ready to stop, basically crying Uncle. He would just roar on. No stopping. I had no choice but to get back into it and after a while, I’d be forced to forget myself and play the shit out of it.

Not much more I can about the teaching part but what really did it for me was being in the presence of greatness, with all three of that incredible trio -- Oscar, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen.

I had two great years of that, and I think it stood me in great stead.

The Brian Browne Trio with Paul Novotny on bass and Daniel Barnes on drums plays Saturday, Nov. 14, at the NAC's Fourth Stage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the NAC box office.

- Ottawa Citizen, Division of Canwest Publishing Inc. 2010 Wintergames


Brian Browne’s recordings:

1. The Toronto Scene
2. Listen People
3. The Letter
4. Live at the Park Plaza
5. Beatles
6. Tramps
7. Blue Browne
8. Quiet Night
9. Odyssey
10. Brian Browne Christmas
11. Brian Browne Trio at the National Arts Centre…DVD/CD

Go to and check Brian out on You Tube and iTunes



Originally from Montreal, Browne moved as a teenager to Ottawa, where his musical career soon began. By the age of eighteen he was playing in local clubs and soon had his own CBC radio programme. He studied at the Berklee School of Music and later won a scholarship to study with Oscar Peterson in Toronto.

In 1969, CBC Television produced "The Jazz Piano", a special arts programme featuring a select group of jazz pianists: Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Marian McPartland, and Brian Browne. A Canadian jazz pianist extraordinaire, Brian Browne has a unique natural gift for music that is manifested through a highly individual sense of musical artistry - a gift which granted Browne a certain membership to the distinguished company featured in the programme.
Brian Browne has produced seven recordings that have come to be treasured by those who possess them. "The Letter", issued by Capital Recordings was a recognized hit. It featured the composition "Morning Noon and Night-time Too", for which Browne won the coveted BMI Composition of the Year award in 1974. With a musical career that spans over thirty years, he has gained a reputation as a true Canadian jazz legend. Recently, he returned to Canada from a 10 year stay in New York City where his current release "Live at Tramps" was recorded.
In 1986 he opened Zoe's Lounge in Ottawa's Chateau Laurier hotel and remained there for a year as musical director. He subsequently moved to New York City, where he spent several years actively in the music scene. With his return to Ottawa, long-time fans of Browne's soulful, swinging piano sound are once again delighted by his local appearances.
His music combines hard swinging, deep groovy blues and spacious, floating lyricism, organically and passionately developed and imbued with a vibrant life of it’s own.
Brian now divides his time between performing at festivals, concerts, restaurants, private functions and teaching.