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By Popular Demand: Clifford Brown

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Dizzy Bird Music Hall

656 Marshall Ave

Memphis, Tn 38103

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By Popular Demand is a monthly series dedicated to celebrating legendary jazz musicians. This month's installment will celebrate

Clifford Brown began making his mark professionally upon traveling to Philadelphia and sitting in with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro and Charlie "Bird" Parker, who credited himself with discovering Brown. During this period, the young trumpeter grew to view Gillespie as a father figure and idolize Navarro.

The bebop sound that Charlie Parker created morphed with Clifford Brown's style of attacking every note, and came to be called "hard bop." What was equally noted, alongside Brown's virtuoso ability, was his nature—kind, hard-working, clean-living, committed to excellence and humble—a counterpoint to the stereotypical jazz musician's reputation.

But Brown's career would soon come to a halt: While returning from a gig in June 1950, the trumpeter was seriously injured in an auto accident, spending nearly a year afterward in the hospital.

Fortunately, Brown was able to resume his career. He began recording in March 1952, impressing his contemporaries with his extraordinary ability to synergistically blend his technical expertise with a full, rich and graceful tone. He was especially noted for his masterful improvisations in long, flowing, melodic phrases.

Steve Lee

Stephen Lee began playing the piano at age eight and has been using his abilities to delight audiences everywhere ever since. After attending The University of Tennessee in Knoxville and studying with legendary jazz pianist, Donald Brown, Lee moved to New York to serve as Musical Director for Manhattan’s Crenshaw Christian Center under the leadership of Dr. Fredrick Price. While living in New York, Lee shared the stage with some of the best in the Jazz industry; Gregory Porter, Esperanza Spalding, Ulysses Owens, Jr. Corcoran Holt, Billy Johnson, Tyler Mitchell, Sean Conley, Keith Loftis, Jimmy Vass, Sonny Fortune, Billy Kaye, Saul Rubin, and many more. In 2012, he received The Rhythm of Gospel Award. Lee was nominated First Round in the Stellar Gospel Award in 2013 for his album debut “Music in the Key of My Life”. Today, Lee is on staff at the Stax Music Academy and MMI: Memphis Music Initiative where he teaches at Overton High and Booker T. Washington. He is also the publisher of In Concert Magazine, an online jazz publication viewed in over 100 countries promoting jazz artists from around the world.

Paul McKinney

Born into a musical family, Mr. McKinney began playing the drum set by age 3 and learned several auxiliary percussion instruments during that time. Taught by his father, who is now a retired band director and organist, Paul quickly moved to electric bass and piano by age 7 and continued his musical growth on those instruments until he decided to play trumpet by age 12. Paul developed into one of the best high school trumpeters in the state of Tennessee in high school, earning 1st chair in the All-State Jazz band in 1987. Mr. McKinney went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from the University of Memphis, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University.

John Birdsong

He has been described as one of the most “soulful” upright jazz bass players in the Nashville area. John is applauded by Donald Brown, well-respected jazz pianist (Grammy-nominee), for his ability to “lay down the groove and maintain a steady pulse.” Since retiring from the State of Tennessee, John has begun taking an increased interest in “honing” his skills in music. In addition to taking courses from the Nashville Jazz Workshop under the direction of Lori Meacham and Roger Spence, he has studied with Keter Betts (bass player for the late Ella Fitzgerald) as well as the late Jimmy Smith. He has taken classical lessons from Ernest Suyge (Nashville Symphony), jazz lessons with Rufus Reid (internationally renown bass player) and sometimes performs as a section bass player with the Trevecca Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Tim Cierpke. John constantly strives to perfect his art and always focuses on expanding his musical abilities as a musician and band leader. John has recently accepted a request to serve on the Advisory Board for the Nashville Jazz Workshop.

Renardo Ward

Elder Renardo Ward is an accomplished international music instructor and former US Department of State/Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador to West Africa. He has performed with many international jazz artists and recording artists. Pastor Ward also worked as a private and public music educator in Shelby County Tennessee for over 20 years. He is now applying the same passion and discipline used for his God-given talent toward his God ordained calling. With mentors like Bishop Lee Ward (President of Tennessee West Fellowship), Dr. Bartholomew Orr (Pastor of Brown Baptist Church in Southaven, Mississippi) and Dr. James Wade (General Overseer of Church Growth and Development AME Church Worldwide), Pastor Ward is standing with the support of great leadership in the community.

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Dizzy Bird Music Hall

656 Marshall Ave

Memphis, Tn 38103

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