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November 23, 2000



Director of Vocal Studies Jeri Brown.

Director of Vocal Studies Jeri Brown.


Student Nona Kolodeznyi.

Student Nona Kolodeznyi.


Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj.

by Anna Bratulic

During a conversation with legendary jazz musician Yusef Latef over a decade ago at the University of Massachusetts, Jeri Brown realized that she needed to rediscover her past.

Latef, whose contemporaries include such musicians as Randy Weston, Charles Mingus and Horace Silver, wrote music with a strong black church element and focused heavily on jazz’s African roots. His conversation with Brown developed into a discussion of their own roots.

“Does this mean that there are parts of my past that I’ve taken for granted?” Brown asked herself, and decided the answer was probably yes. Shortly afterwards, Brown came to Concordia, where she is now Director of Vocal Studies in the Music Department.

Her self-discovery has included writing a musical every year to be performed by her students. This year, some 40 members of Concordia’s Jazz Choir, Jazz Vocal Repertoire Class and Jazz Vocal Studio will perform 936 Laurel Place: A Jazz Revue on December 7 and 8.

The title is the address of the house where Brown grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. In her neighborhood, two sources of communal expression stood in uncomfortable proximity. There was a church, from which emanated the sounds of a gospel choir — and next door to the church was a disco. Sometimes, both types of music would flow out of open doors and windows and could be heard in the streets, competing for listeners, at the same time.

“Later, it occurred to me that this was a very rich location because it was symbolic of the music that came out of the black community. Both settings provide an opportunity for people to express themselves vocally,” she said. “It’s important that I try to trace some of my whims and musical ideas to that time when I was growing and becoming a musical person.”

The musical has a short story line, written by Brown. The first act features the music of the 30s and 40s, with material from Duke Ellington and others. The second act explores the black music of the mid-1970s, with a particular focus on Quincy Jones.

936 Laurel Place: A Jazz Revue will be performed at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on December 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $5; students enter free. A portion of the ticket sales will go to charity.