Ted Brown, tenor saxophonist, was born in Rochester, New York, on December 1, 1927. He comes from a musical family. His father led a jazz band, playing banjo. His uncle and grandfather played saxophones in the band. Ted studied banjo with his father from the age of 6, switching to violin at age 10. His uncle taught him clarinet and tenor when he was 14.
The family moved to Southern California in 1942 because Ted's father was stationed there during World War II as a pilot in the Navy Air Corp. Ted's father encouraged him to improvise on the melodies of standard tunes while he accompanied him on tenor guitar (four-string). He also taught him to transcribe a few jazz solos from records including Coleman Hawkins' Body and Soul.
After graduating from High School in 1945, Ted worked with a big band touring U.S. Army bases. He was on the road in Texas when he was informed of his draft notice, and from February '46 until February '47 he was in the Army. He was stationed in Virginia and played with the post band which included good players from Chicago and New York who "hipped" him to Lester Young and Charlie Parker. He also met Warne Marsh and Don Ferrara in the Army and played a few sessions with them. He spent many hours transcribing solos from the new records, including Bird's KoKo (based on Cherokee).
One weekend in 1946 he went to New York and 52nd Street where he heard Bud Powell playing segments of Bird's solos on KoKo and was just amazed. Ted also saw "Pres" for the first time at another club, and knew right then that he wanted to see and hear more. He was determined to come back.
In September of 1948 Ted did make it back to New York. The week he arrived in town the famous Miles Davis Nonet was playing its only engagement at the Royal Roost. Lee Konitz, the alto saxophone player in that band, made an immediate impact on Ted who recognized that Lee was taking a new direction different from Bird's. A few weeks later, having heard Lee and Warne play together at a private session with Lennie Tristano, Ted decided to study with Lennie and continued to do so for some seven years.
Ted was inspired by Lennie's knowledge and teaching methods. In addition to ear-training and exercises in all the keys, he helped him with chord progressions and had him write a chorus on some tune almost every week to develop his own melodic line when improvising. When Lennie opened his studio in 1951 it provided a great place to play together. There were sessions every weekend for almost four years. That consistency of playing allowed Ted to stretch out and develop into a real improvising jazz musician.
Ted's first recording experience occurred in March of 1956 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio. The Savoy album titled "All About Ronnie" included Ronnie Ball piano, Willie Dennis trombone, Ted Brown tenor sax, Wendell Marshall bass and Kenny Clarke drums.
In September of 1956, after Lennie closed his studio, Ted and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Los Angeles. Ted became a member of the Warne Marsh Quintet, which included former Tristano students Ronnie Ball and Jeff Morton plus bass player Ben Tucker. The group worked weekends at a club in Hollywood and did three recording dates within three months…two under Warne's name, "Jazz of Two Cities" and "Modern Jazz Gallery" and one under Ted's name, "Free Wheeling" with the same personnel plus Art Pepper. Unfortunately the club they were working in was sold and the band broke up in April of 1957. Ted and his wife returned to New York.
Except for that eight month period in Hollywood, Ted always had day jobs, usually clerical positions. He realized early on that he could not earn enough money to survive by playing only the music he wanted to play, but that didn't matter to him. He was just happy to be a part of the amazing jazz scene that was happening at that time in New York.
In May of 1959 Ted was invited to participate in a Lee Konitz record date which resulted in an album for Verve titled "Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre". Jimmy Giuffre wrote the charts for 5 saxes plus a rhythm section. Personnel included Lee Konitz and Hal McKusick alto saxes, Warne Marsh and Ted Brown tenor saxes, Jimmy Giuffre baritone sax, Bill Evans piano, Buddy Clarke bass, Ronnie Free drums.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, Ted, his wife and two children lived in Massachusetts. The day job he had was not providing enough income to raise a family so he studied to become a computer programmer. Ted started working as a programmer in 1964 and, through a series of promotions and job changes between Massachusetts and New York, he did very well. In 1991, when his last employer in New York was forced to "downsize", he accepted their offer of an early retirement package.
Ted continued to play as much as he could throughout those years. He sat in at various clubs in the New England area and in 1975 formed a quartet with Boston pianist, Tony Zano. They started rehearsing the lines written by Lennie, Lee and Warne and did some gigs in New England and New York playing that material.
In 1976 Ted moved back to New York, started studying with Lennie again and worked a few gigs with Lee Konitz. He also recorded an album with Lee titled "Figure & Spirit" with Albert Daily, Rufus Reid and Joe Chambers.
In the summer of 1985 Ted’s son Jeff, an excellent drummer, was working on Long Island with Dave Burns, one of the trumpet players in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1947-48. Jeff and Dave invited Ted to sit in one night and that led to about a dozen swinging gigs with Dave’s quintet which included Chuck Fowler on piano and Kent Miller on bass. They played Sunday afternoons at a club in Hempstead through the end of the year. And for a few weeks in the spring of ‘86 they had a nice gig at a place in Freeport called Jackie’s Le Club.
In December of 1985, using vacation time from his job, Ted recorded an album for Criss Cross titled "In Good Company" with Jimmy Raney, Hod O'Brien, Buster Williams and Ben Riley.
In the fall of 1987 Ted took more time off for gigs in Holland. This generated a second album for Criss Cross titled "Free Spirit" with Hod O'Brien and Jacques Schols.
In 1988 Ted was back in Holland to do four concerts with Lee Konitz and the Rein De Graff trio.
In the fall of 1991, once again Ted’s son Jeff invited him to sit in with a trio he was working with Sunday nights at a restaurant called Walker’s in the Tribeca section of lower Manhattan. The leader, Nick Burns, played guitar and Kent Miller was again on bass. After a couple visits Nick invited Ted to join the group and they played many Sunday nights throughout 1992, 1993 and part of 1994. They started out once or twice a month. Then in the fall of 1992 Nick added alto player Alexander McCabe and they started playing every week. But in the fall of 1993 they were cut back to a quartet, then to a trio, and by February 1994 it was over. But it was a good long run with some really great nights.
In May 1998, 10 years after his previous trip to Europe, Ted played a “one nighter” - a jazz festival in Vicenza, Italy with Lee Konitz, Ron McClure and Jeff Williams.
In April 1999 Ted worked with Lee, Ron McClure and Jeff Williams at Birdland. Two weeks later that band recorded an album for SteepleChase titled "Dig-It."
Also in April of 1999, Ted recorded four tunes with Lee on a BMG record date titled "Sound Of Surprise" with John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson and Joey Baron.
In March of 2001, Ted played concerts in Paris. Nimes and Brussels with Lee Konitz, Marc Johnson and Joey Baron. The concert in Brussels was "A Tribute to Lennie Tristano."
In November of 2002, Ted recorded an album for SteepleChase under his own name with Harold Danko, Dennis Irwin and Jeff Hirshfield. It was titled "Preservation" as a tribute to Lester Young.
In the years 2002-3-4 Ted played many sessions at Sal Mosca’s studio in Mt. Vernon, NY, playing with Sal, Jimmy Halperin, Don Messina, Bill Chattin, Jon Easton and others.
In order to stay in shape, Ted for many years has played almost every week with his friend, guitarist Steve LaMattina. They are still doing it, and as a duo, they always manage to find a good groove.
Ted was invited in May 2004 to play at a Los Angeles Jazz Festival put on by the L.A. Jazz Institute where he played with Lee Konitz and took part in a panel discussion on Cool Jazz. He was invited back to California in October 2004 to play a concert for Mark Masters of the American Jazz Institute at Claremont College with Gary Foster, Larry Koonse, Putter Smith and Kendall Kay.
In January of 2007, Ted recorded another album for SteepleChase. This was a trio setting with Steve LaMattina and Dennis Irwin titled “Shades of Brown”.
Lee Konitz celebrated his 80th birthday in 2007 with a concert at Carnegie Hall. Ted was invited to play on one of Lee’s compositions along with Steve Swallow and Matt Wilson.
August 27, 2009 was Lester Young’s 100th birthday. Brad Linde, saxophonist from Washington, DC assembled a group to play at Small’s Jazz Club in New York as part of a Tribute to Lester Young. Ted was invited to play on some favorite “Pres” tunes written for 5 saxes by Bill Holman and also Brad. Over the next couple years, and to this day, Brad and Ted often work together in quartets and quintets at various small jazz clubs in Manhattan.
In the fall of 2009 Ted went to Japan at the invitation of Mitsuo Johfu, the owner of the jazz record label called Marshmallow Records. Ted played with a Japanese group led by guitarist Yoichi Hirai who is a great fan of Lennie Tritsano. On October 27, 2009 they recorded the album called “Ted Brown Live at Pit Inn, Tokyo”. On that tour, Ted also did 3 concerts with a group from Toronto called the Gene DiNovi Trio. They made a CD called “Ted Brown/Gene DiNovi Live In Yokohama” which was recorded at their first concert October 30th. Since then, Marshmallow Records has also released a tape which Ted had from the time he worked with Warne Marsh back in the fifties. That is called “Warne Marsh/Ted Brown Live In Hollywood 1957” and includes Ronnie Ball, Jeff Morton and Ben Tucker…recorded at Whistling’s Hawaii, 6507 Sunset Blvd.
In the spring of 2010 Ted was invited to a session at Joe Solomon’s studio in New York and met the piano player Michael Kanan. They hit a good groove right away. A couple months later, Ted started sitting in with Mike’s group at Sofia’s on W. 46th Street and also played many private sessions at Mike’s studio in Brooklyn. They started rehearsing with Murray Wall on bass and Taro Okamoto on drums. Mike was able to line up some gigs in Manhattan and the group really sounded great. They played at Kitano’s on Park Ave and 38th Street on a snowy, Wednesday night in January 2011 and (with some great promotion) SOLD OUT BOTH SETS…8 & 10 PM. The group continues to rehearse and appeared at Kitano’s again on February 29, 2012.
In October 2011, Ted was invited to record as a sideman on another album for SteepleChase. It was a quartet album under the leadership of cornet player Kirk Knuffke. It included John Hebert on bass and Matt Wilson on drums and is titled: Kirk Knuffke & Ted Brown “Pound Cake”. It includes 5 of Ted’s compositions: Featherbed, Jazz of Two Cities, Dig-It, Blimey and a new one called Slippin’ and Slidin’ (based on I Found A New Baby).It was released in the fall of 2012.