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Brown, Pete (James Ostend)

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Brown, Pete (James Ostend), jazz alto saxophonist; b. Baltimore, Md., Nov. 9, 1906; d. N.Y., Sept. 20, 1963. His father was originally from Barbados and played trombone; his mother was a pianist. Pete’s cousin Estelle Carroll was a singer. He played piano from the age of eight, took up the ukelele soon after, and then specialized on violin. He played in local a movie-house band from the age of 12, and was a featured soloist at high school concerts. He began working in a Baltimore theatre orchestra, switching to alto and tenor saxophone in 1924. He played with a number of local bands through early 1927, when he joined Banjo Bernie Robinson in Atlantic City; that June, he moved to N.Y. with the band (where Pete began doubling on trumpet in 1928). From c. 1930-35, he worked on and off with Charlie Skeets. From c. 1933-May 1937, he worked in Fred Moore’s Trio (with Don Frye) at various N.Y. clubs, and then became an original member of the John Kirby Band. He left Kirby in May 1938, and formed his own band that played many residencies in N.Y. During this period, he played on several recordings organized by Leonard Feather, and also recorded with Willie “The Lion” Smith (1937), and Frankie Newton. He co-led a band with Newton in early 1940, then led his own band at various clubs froml941-43. During 1943, he was with Frankie Newton in Boston and then briefly fronted Louis Jordan’s group while the leader did a solo tour. From 1944 through the 1950s, he continued to lead his own small groups, but persistent ill health curtailed regular playing in the later years of his life. He was featured at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957, and continued playing until his death, with regular stints at the Village Vanguard and other N.Y. clubs. From the late 1950s, he doubled on tenor sax. He regularly gave sax instruction from the 1930s; his pupils include Cecil Payne and Flip Phillips.

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