...STORY OF BROWN...
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"Why do people call
you Brownman anyway??"
.
       I get asked this a lot and once my most obvious of jokes die down, I usually just say, "it's a long story… I’ll tell you another time".  Sometimes I do... sometimes I don't... ‘cause it IS a long story and when you tell the SAME damn, long-ass tale over and over you start to get sick of telling it after a while.  NOW I say - "it's a long story, BUT the answers you seek are up on the website (yeah… I do it in a Yoda voice too), so puh-lease save me having to re-tell it and go check it out?"
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        When I was 7 years old I had a buddy named Russell King.  Russ had this way of looking at the world that, in retrospect, was more advanced than any other 7 year old I knew then and know today.  In the 70’s in suburbia, racism was still running rampant and I was often referred to with disgust by the school yard bullies, usually 2 or 3 years older and about as bright as dirty socks, as "Pakie" or "Brownboy".  This was the depth of the under-12-year-old insult back then.  They would accost me in the halls and say, "my dad told me that you Brownboys come here and take our jobs."   Me?, I didn't take your jobs!  And my dad sure didn't take anyone else's job… geez… they came to him at his old workplace and asked him to come work for them.  I was confused.  All I knew was that I just wanted to be friends… hey man - I was a damn personable 7 year old!  But it was Russell that really made a difference…  he saw that the names were bugging me… "Pakie" didn't bother me so much as I rationalized that - "I wasn't from Pakistan... I'm from Trinidad... so why do they call me that??".  But "Brownboy" got to me.  The way they said it especially… with such gross disdain… and emphasis on each syllable … "BROWN - BOY", grinding both the color and age difference into me.  Yeah… it bugged me.   Then one day, out of the blue, Russell called me Brownboy.  I hit him in the head with my lunchbox (Spiderman, of course).  Rubbing his head and shooting me a sidelong glare, he says to me "why does that bug you anyway - is it a lie??".  Very slowing, starting quietly, almost meekly - I laughed.  Giggled really, but it quickly built to full-on roaring gales of preadolescent laughter .  He started calling me Brownboy all the time at school and the other kids who knew me well enough, once seeing Russell - my bestest buddy - calling me that name with no apparent worry, ALSO started.  This infuuuuuuriated the bullies.  Their favorite insult had had all the wind blown out of it's sails!  And now I found myself suppressing laughter when they called me that, no matter how much poison they put into their voices when they said it.
        Well… I got older and the nickname stuck… a good number of that group from public school would go on to Jr. High and then High school together.  I was Brownboy until I turned 18.  On my 18th birthday a group of friends threw me a surprise party and I was formally crowned BrownMAN by the girls that night.  *cough*  I still have old birthday cards from that day with things written in them like "the Brownboy becomes a Brownman today - so how's it feel?".
         Once graduated from high school and off to University, a handful of my high school classmates ended up at the same school.  All it takes is one old friend in the halls screaming "YO’ BROWNMAN!!!  WE GETTIN’ FOOD OR WHAT??" for the name to be explained to those with raised eyebrows and then added to their vocabularies.  And by then I was in the habit of introducing myself as Nick the Brownman anyway… university is so much less uptight than reality… I rarely found myself explaining the personal history of my nickname.  It wasn't until I started gigging… and meeting folks with their own hang-ups about political correctness and propriety that I realized that some people were actually uncomfortable calling me that.  Most of the time once I explain the story, everyone gets cool… but there's always that one dude who just can't get over it.  *shrug*  It's not important enough to me to insist on it, but I just feel better hearing it. 

        The name was borne of the ironic mind and kind heart of a 7 year old boy trying to make his friend feel better about something he shouldn't have felt bad about.  So when next we meet and I say to you, "my friends call me Brownman"… what I'm really saying is - I like being called Brownman… it makes me feel 7 again… with all the warmth and fuzziness that goes along with that age.

        My closest friends permutate it… 
        I'm giving a dollar out now every time I hear a new one...

Brown (credit goes to my old friend Costas "Dino" Conistis, who called me that first in 1989.)
Brownie (credit goes to L - Eliana Cuevas, my ex... and though I know she meant it as a
....................cute couple thing, I gotta admit to liking the fact that it was first Clifford Brown's nickname.)
Browndude (credit goes to MRP record company executive Radames Nieves who cracks me
....................up when he calls me screamin' it on my answering machine.)
B.M. (credit goes to Ubu, Monk Master extraodinare and old Gateway buddy.)
Hombre Marrón (credit goes again to Ubu for concept and L for the Spanish translation.)
Marróncito (credit goes to Luisito Orbegoso and latin bands in T.O. for this even more "authentic"
....................latin version... translated it means "little brown"... cute huh?)
Brongman (credit goes to my cousin Riaz and his truely Trinidadian accent... dig those phonetics.)
Primo Marrón (credit again goes to my cousin Riaz... I suspect he's after another dollar...)
Browner (credit goes to piano player John Roney, who uses it in email.)
Brown Bro (credit goes to Steve Dillard of the HornTrader.com who's got the best horns in L.A. and 
....................may be sellin' me a Bach 25L.)
Browninator (credit again goes to Steve Dillard of the HornTrader.com who will forego the dollar as
....................long as I tell the world "ilovethehorntraderilovethehorntraderilovethehorntrader")
Browntasauras (credit again goes to Steve Dillard, aka "Dillplodicus" of the HornTrader.com who's
....................out to acheive some kinda record here, clever boy that he is.)
Uncle Brown (credit goes to baby Dayna Eldridge, born June 10th, 1999 @ 00:56, weighing
....................7lbs, 7.5oz; daughter to Brian Eldridge my old friend, who assures me it's the first words
....................she'll speak.  The dollar is currently being held in trust until Dayna's 18th birthday.)
The Brown One (credit goes to piano master Dave Restivo, who took to calling me that while on
....................the National Tour '99 with RITA DI GHENT & The SPRAWL PROJECT... and yes, he does it in
....................Yoda's voice too.)
Cafemon (credit goes to young New York trumpet player Marcos Rivera (whom I met while touring with
....................Dominicanada and who watches WAY too much Pokemon... but wiil deny it if ever asked.)
Brown Bomber (credit goes to Toronto drummer Jay Alter who's heros include boxing champ
....................Joe Louis - aka the Brown Bomber... since he started calling me "Bomber" I thought it only
....................fair to punch him in the nose every so often.)
Obi-Brown Kenobi (credit goes to one of Toronto's finest latin alto saxophonists and one of the
....................vocalists for salsa unit MARRON MATIZADO - Alex Naar -  who's love for Star Wars is only
....................rivaled by his love for Salsa (and porn).
Sir Browncelot (credit goes to drummer and good friend Rich Briscoe who secretly loved Richard
....................Gere in "A Knight's Tale" NOT for the acting, but for his curly locks.  I worry.)
Browncito (credit goes to Cuban drummer extraordinaire Chendy Leon who was the first to use it,
....................but it must be noted - the beautiful Argentinian flamenco dancer Noelia Grey uses it the most...
....................and dayum she FINE yo...).
Browninationator (credit goes to Jeni Root, one of my youngest students, who - at the tender
....................age of 16 - insists on calling me this dispite it's SIX syllable tongue-spraining less-than-practical
....................vocalization... and yeah - she always says all six syllables, so I figured she deserved her
....................mention here.  Please send all medical donations to jeni@OhMyBustedTongue.com)
Brownalicious (credit goes to Natalie Bauer, from the Old Mill.  She hits on me constantly and
....................insists on dropping her pens in front of me while wearing low-cut tops.  She can thus call me
............/.......whatever the hell she wants.  Um - is it getting hot in here?  You feel that right?)
Brungs (credit goes to electric bass genius Ian De Souza, who insists that HIS version is very
................,...different from the Trinidadian pronunciation of "Brong", citing his African roots as
................,...evidence of the uniqueness of this 1 letter change.  Ok, fine.  You get a dolla Ian.)
Brownzie (credit goes to Erynn Billue, the super young, super capable Ohio state booking agent who
....................was clearly obsessed with re-runs of Happy Days.)
Brownmanito (credit goes to Mariel Borelli, host of CBC's "Big CitySmall World" who was so hell
....................bent on getting her dollar, she announced the invention of this permutation live during an
....................inteview & has used it ever since.  I wrote her a cheque for her dolla immediately.
....................Hear that interview)


Being Brown isn't about color… it's about a state of mind. 


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     -
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 ........."Don't use your eyes only… use your ears, then your mind."
 ......... - Russell King at age 16 (expletives deleted) bawling out some guy at school who was offended by the whole brownman thing... Russell... my friend...

Hear the Jan 18, 2005 Jazz FM Interview (5.5meg | 12min:07sec) with Ralph Benmurgui where the origins of the Brownman moniker are discussed along with Brown's experiences in New York with Randy Brecker and a recent Havana Jazz Festival Performance (where CRUZAO had been asked to represent Canada).
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