John Brown Jazz Orchestra gets by with help from friends

The Aiken Performing Arts Group will bring the John Brown Jazz Orchestra for shows on Nov. 17 and 18.



While John Brown does surround himself with highly-skilled musicians, it’s more important that he plays music with his friends.

“I am working with people I enjoy, and that joy comes through the music,” said Brown, who will bring the John Brown Jazz Orchestra to Aiken’s URS Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 17 and 18.

The orchestra is a 12-member group that gives the “taste of a big band,” he said.

Much of the music played at the two concerts will be from the Great American Songbook, but with a twist. Pieces from the Great American Songbook were written between 1920 and 1960 and were composed for Broadway plays or Hollywood musicals.

“We give them a little more contemporary reference,” he said. “There is a lot of energy in the groups, and in most cases, people will recognize the songs.”

Brown is the director of the jazz program and associate professor of the practice of music at Duke University. He plays bass and is a composer. He received a Grammy nomination for his performance and co-writing on Nnenna Freelon’s 1996 Concord release, Shaking Free.

Cathy Traver, the Aiken Performing Arts Group’s arts administrator, said APAG tries to schedule at least one jazz band per season.

“There are so many jazz fans in Aiken,” she said.

Brown said this is his first visit to Aiken, and he’s looking forward to the concerts. He said he has sensed an excitement in the Aiken audience from the conversations he’s had with Traver.

The concerts begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 from the URS Center for the Perform­ing Arts box office at (803) 648-1438. For more information about APAG, call (803) 643-4774 or visit