Jazz Pianist Extraordinaire, Brian Browne, Dies At 81

Long regarded as one of Canada’s lead jazz pianists, Brian Browne, has died. Brian passed away late afternoon, Tuesday, June 5 after defiantly ‘duking it out’ with lung cancer. Brian was 81 years of age.

There are people who live to work. Creative people who play in creative sandboxes, build sandcastles, knocking them down and starting over again — they are the ones who tell the grim reaper…’Just a couple more minutes.’ Brian charmed the grim reaper for the past 6 years since his diagnosis, surgeries and treatments.

He was a force on the Canadian and international jazz scene His exquisite mix of technique and soul was the heart of Brian’s music–and heart was the essence of Brian Browne.

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 Boston’s Berklee School of Music and later won a scholarship to study with Oscar Peterson in Toronto. As a protege of Oscar Peterson, he was stated to be Peterson’s heir. ‘ I’d be more now relaxed and would thank him for the inspiration he gave me’, Brian stated in an earlier interview.

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 were once again delighted by his local appearances. His distinctive, luscious, bluesy piano style and swing was a unique sound of his own.

In 1969, Brian stood among jazz piano’s most select company. Browne, who had moved to Toronto four years earlier, appeared on a CBC-TV special simply called Jazz Piano, profiled with American jazz pianists Erroll Garner, Bill Evans and Marian MacPartland. Browne was not just the show’s token Canuck. During an interview, he tossed off the show’s best witticism, worthy of a jazz underdog. “If you play music for people drinking cocktails, it’s called cocktail music. If you play for people who can’t afford cocktails, that’s jazz.”

Brian Brown had a one and only sense of humour and quick wit. He poured his life out through his fingertips and into your ears, creating the most intimate and rich moments for his audience.

Brian is survived by his wife — rock and social conscience, Carol Banens. He has four children from a previous marriage.

Funeral arrangements TBA.

Contact: Gail Carroll – 613-295-5192