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  • Writer's pictureNina Cherry

Carole Brown (b. 1959)


Part of a professional musician’s growth is the drive to polish and enhance their skills and repertoire. Some musicians, like Carole Brown, continually reinvent their musical selves.

Carole Brown’s musical journey began at the tender age of three years with violin lessons, followed by the piano. By age eight, she began playing cello and would continue to for the next 10 years. A graduate of Shawnee Mission North High School, Brown played electric bass in the jazz band and acoustic bass in the concert band.

Courtesy of the Historic Mutual Musicians Foundation

Brown attended Kansas State University on a cello scholarship but continued to play electric bass in the jazz bands. After her first term, she switched from cello to bass in the orchestra. Here, she met and studied briefly with Bob Bowman. During her years at KSU, she backed popular entertainers Red Shelton and Bob Hope, and attended workshops with Ed Soph and Bob Montgomery.

The next year, Brown transferred to the UMKC Conservatory and switched to the acoustic bass for jazz ensembles. Brown began attending the jam sessions led by Carol Comer’s band Calico at the Signboard Bar in Crown Center. In addition to the encouragement of Comer, she received support from local luminaries Tommy Ruskin, Mike Ning, Paul Smith, and John Lyman. Ultimately, Milt Abel, a prominent bass player and husband of Bettye Miller, became her mentor.

In 1980, Brown headed to New York City to study at the Mannes School of Music. During her time in New York, she was a bassist for String Fever, a women’s string swing group co-founded by Marin Alsop. “Even in New York City, a woman playing acoustic jazz bass was a rarity,” explains Brown.

Throughout the early eighties, Brown was a member of the house band at the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival, playing in marathon nine-hour jam sessions. By 1983, she was a member of the KCWJF All-Star Band.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Brown was the regular bassist for many acts, including Frank Smith, Pete Eye, Eddie Baker’s Big Band, Sultans of Swing, and Claude “Fiddler” Williams. She also had a long-time duo with Charlie Gatschet, and a quartet, the Blue Note Four, with Charlie, Eddie Saunders, and Brian Morahan (pictured above). She has also worked with Julie Turner, Tommy Ruskin, five-time Grammy-nominated Karrin Allyson, among a long list of prominent players. At the 1999 Blues and Jazz Festival, Brown backed gospel vocalist Joshua Nelson.

Brown explains that she got out of the local jazz loop in 2015, but is now ready to re-emerge into the classical scene. We can’t wait to see where this new venture takes her.

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