photo by Juan-Carlos Hernandez, Geneva
Brownman was the featured trumpet soloist
for GURU's JAZZMATAZZ from 2006 to 2010
to: Brownman's Big Ass Mailing List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 4:40 PM
subject: GURU... My DAD... Moments of Truth...
It's been a while, I know.
And this isn't the way I had planned to re-emerge from our recent Big Ass Mailing List email silence (precipitated from the rigors of touring, running my new record label, and dealing with multiple personal losses, which I'll talk about below) - but if you are on this list, you have been a supporter of my artistry, and there are some things I feel obligated to tell you all... my friends, fans & family.
I recently changed my Facebook account's status message to:
Brownman is devastated. Cancer took GURU on Apr 19th, 2010. My father's own cancer was recently pronounced terminal. Everywhere I turn men of greatness are falling to this disease. To Guru I say thank you for your artistry, it was an honor to stand next to you. Your legacy will live on. To my Dad I say I can't imagine a moment without your wisdom guiding my path. Our time here is finite, so hug your loved ones people!
I am humbled by mortality.
GURU (July 17, 1961 – April 19, 2010)
On Apr 19th, 2010 - it was announced that GURU, one of the greatest hip-hop voices of all time, has died. I have had the honor and privilege of having been the featured soloist for GURU's JAZZMATAZZ for the last 3 years, and standing next to him on stages around the world was nothing short of inspiring. All that time on the road with him, witnessing the profound talent he brought to the mic nightly, influenced me deeply and I will forever be grateful for the time I had with him. I grew up with Gangstarr and the early volumes of Jazzmatazz, and when I got the call to join the ranks of Jazzmatazz as the trumpet player and appear on Vol. 4 - I was honored and humbled beyond words. To stand next to that primordial voice in hip-hop and be part of a series that I adored... was like a dream. I was occupying the position in Jazzmatazz formerly held by the legendary Donald Byrd and thus had BIG shoes to fill. But Guru was always encouraging and supportive, and his friendship and grace willalways be remembered.
This video below, which now tears me up to watch, has him shouting me out. At the end of a long Jazzmatazz tour, I had asked him if he could do a 5 second lil ad for Brownman.com - instead he said a ton of very kind & gracious things he didn't have to and you can see me clearly humbled by his words. In addition to being a lyrical genius, he was a funny, poignant, carefree man. You can see that spirit clearly in this video:
And here's a video of the GURU I remember best - the man that danced beside my bed and made fun of my shoes (omg did he ever love to make fun of my kicks! lol)... here's a lil tribute of my own:
Rest in peace bald-headed slick. Many of us know the truth behind your demise, and regardless of the evil surrounding you in your final days & the attempts to re-write history we're all now witnessing - your legacy remains. History will remember... and so will I.
For those unaware of the scandel surrounding Guru's last days - take a look at this DJ Premiere blog page: http://www.djpremierblog.com/2010/03/11/the-man-who-calls-himself-a-superproducer/
*Update: The controversy around Solar's abuse and manipulation of Guru was being documented at www.FuckSolar.com, which -- under threats from Solar -- has now disappeared.
11 days ago my father - Faiz Ali (the Brown Dad!) - whom many of you have met over the years and experienced his charm firsthand, was informed his cancer was now terminal. Unbeknownst to most of you, for the last 8 months my father's been battling cancer. It manifested in his tongue, which baffled doctors as he never drank or smoked. Two months ago he had a surgical procedure which removed 1/3 of his tongue (rendering him mute), and for the last 7 weeks he's been in radiation therapy. Things looked good, and it seemed the combination of the surgery with the radiation had got it all.
But... 2 weeks ago a confirming biopsy concluded the cancer was back... and his oncologist used the term "explosively aggressive". It's now infiltrated his lower jaw and is about to invade the bone.
The doctors are estimating he has 3 weeks left.
We're all devastated.
I had been holding off on saying anything, and few people knew... I guess in the hope that Dad would turn it around. He's beaten everything else that life has thrown at him, and the post-radiative results looked to be in his favor. But this latest news has us all shell-shocked. I was recently in an email group discussion with friends I've known for 20 plus years, in a discussion about what lurks on the internet and the ethics and philosophical implications behind blocking your children's access to it (ie - will they grow up ready to face the world if their shielded? And at what age should they be weened off such blockages?). This parental preparedness discussion had me thinking of my Dad... and how he, and my mother, worked very hard in giving my brother and I the tools (both intellectually and emotionally) - to cope. Cope with life's evils. Cope with heart ache. Cope with disappointment, and betrayal, and injustice, and oppression, and prejudice and a million other ailments that are part of life. And now - as I face my father's end days, I find his very condition is now putting all those life lessons to the test. I've been very lucky in that no one I'm close to has died. My cat Kiwi died 15 years ago, and that shattered me. But this... this is unfathomable. But still - I'm doing my best. I'm coping. And trying to accept. And trying not to lose myself in the "why him?" endless, unanswerable cycle of anger. Many of you on this list have been treasured friends, some since I was a child, others very recently in my life - but regardless, I thought it was time you all knew.
My father is a brilliant, thoughtful, pragmatic man... he taught me chess... the rigors of logic... the necessity of literature... the value of self-examination... the importance of irreverence... to always try and always do your best. He embodies honor, truth, nobility, justice and courage... and I'm struggling with the idea that his time here is fast coming to and end. But as awful as it is, my selfish need to want him to stay here just a little longer, needs to be tempered by the understanding that he's about to embark on his next great journey... and the one thing my father always strove to be, more than anything else - and the one trait that's now burned in my DNA taken from both my parents - is to be an explorer. And with every note I play, will attempt to continue that legacy of exploration.
Hug your loved ones
I'll tell you this - when my time comes to be a dad, if I can be even 1/2 the father to my children, that he was to me ... then I'll have done well.
For those that have met my Dad and have a story to tell... a memory of him to share... words for my mother, his partner for 45 years, who has stood by him through all of this... please feel free to write in. The very friends I mentioned earlier in the email group discussion on internet child-preparedness all wrote in with the same hilarious story of 7 of us sitting in my house when I was 18, home from school and my father discovering that I had been driving our '74 bright yellow Super Beetle, with a... um... *cough*... minor problem that needed fixing. Here's the transcript, as told by Jason Kooner, of what we were all hearing in the living room table as my pop talked to Manuel - our Bug mechanic:
"Hi Manuel, hows the old bug that my son dropped of?..........four bald tires?... Well... I guess that's understandable... he does a lot of driving. What else you got? ....No rubber left on the wiper blades?? Hmmm.... well - he should have fixed that one, but no problem...... Water in the oil pan??? That's not good but he couldn't have noticed that one. Ok, so I guess that's about it?... wait, wait - what about the brakes? My son mentioned they might need some adjusting or something??? ... uh huh.... uh huh.... (long pause ,then:) so there NO brakes?!?! ... I see... ". Then came the glaring stare as Brown slink down in his car... and then Brown's mom quoting section 12 part 3 of traffic code that clearly states one should not be driving without brakes. We all laughed for weeks at that one. I hope this memory helps a lil Brown."
And it did. I remembered my Dad, in an even tone, more filled filled surprise than anything else saying "there are NO brakes?"... then giving me that look that all fathers give their children when they're gonna get it. Thanks guys for reminding me of those times (Brian, Paul, Dino, Kooner, Rob, Jim... the UofW crew).
Thank you to all who have already written in or phoned. Your kind sentiments, often accompanied with your own stories of personal loss add to my own strength and resolve (it's amazing and shocking how many of us have lost people to this disease). They also act as a reminder to appreciate my Dad while he's still here... to keep putting one foot in front of the other... and to continue the act of exploration while there's still breath in my lungs.
To end - a Guru lyric from Gangstarr's primordial Moment Of Truth record:
"So like they say,
every dog has its day
A'ight... I'm out. Peace.
- a brief history -
2006 ended for Brownman with the explosive "Jazz By Genre" presentation of legendary rapper of Jazzmatazz and Gangstarr fame - GURU, held in Toronto's revered Mod Club. This could have been just another 'backing band for out-of-town act' session for the often called Trinidadian trumpeter, but the chemistry between Brown and Guru was evident even back then on their first meeting. During that show Guru would push him out of his regular horn position to the front of the stage to solo while the hip-hop legend held a mic in front of his horn's bell. This single performance would lead to an email from Guru himself a month later asking Brown if he was available to make an appearance on the upcoming 2007 release of 'Jazzmatazz Vol. 4', replacing the luminious Donald Byrd as the featured trumpet soloist. Brown, accepting immediately, would write a special horn arrangement of "Universal Struggle" and solo throughout the tune. In early Feb '07 he was again contacted by Guru's people, impressed by Brown's work on the track, to ask him to tour America for the release of JAZZMATAZZ VOL. 4.
Since then Brownman has been touring the world as the featured soloist with GURU's JAZZMATAZZ as they brought their unique breed of jazz-hip-hop through The United States, Europe, Japan & South America.
See extensive YouTube archive of tour footage.
On Apr 19th, 2010 Keith "Guru" Elam died after a long battle with cancer.
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