A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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“Moments after Justin Brown sat behind a drum kit on Saturday afternoon, the mood at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium shifted,” writes Larry Blumenfeld in the Wall Street Journal. “When he took a solo, it expressed narrative arc more than technique. The ninth of 12 semifinalists to perform at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drums Competition, Mr. Brown had upped the ante, not so much by displaying skills—he did that, but so did others—as by bringing the house band together as a well-tuned vehicle fueled by clear rhythmic ideas. Above all else, that’s what good jazz drummers do, each in a personal way.”

From getting his start on the drums in church at age two to touring the world in his twenties, Justin has become one of the most in-demand voices on his instrument. His sound has been sought after for performances and recordings by the likes of Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Esperanza Spalding, Bilal, Ledisi, Thundercat, and countless others. Justin has also made invaluable contributions to the groups of Gerald Clayton and Ambrose Akinmusire, two of his peers who are shaping the current direction of the music.

We’ve been featuring Justin’s own bands at The Gallery with some degree of regularity since he first performed here as a leader almost two years ago. The drummer has also appeared here as a sideman on innumerable occasions over the past several years. Here’s an excerpt from an interview we conducted with Justin last year:

Because of these times and all of this stuff going on, people are looking for an outlet and [are ready] to relate to [a broad musical perspective], instead of putting a stamp on it. With this generation and our laptops, we truly have that power. I’m just trying to be honest about that and trying not to be shy about it.

Basically, this music is all about love, really. It’s ultimately about inspiring one that they can be themselves. We each have a purpose, and I just want people to realize that purpose within themselves, and be uplifted through my experiences with the music. (Read more here).

This weekend, we welcome Justin back to our stage for a two night run with a quartet featuring the guitarist Matthew Stevens, the pianist Sam Harris (appearing on Fender Rhodes), and the bassist Tim Lefebvre.

Watch an up-close video of a Justin Brown drum solo, recorded in 2012.