Born: August 30, 1937 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Vocalist extraordinaire Jewel Brown, currently with The Heritage Hall Jazz Band, touring and proving what a powerful force she is. When you hear her, you’ll know why she was Louis Armstrong’s featured vocalist for seven years.
Jewel Brown is the true to life, born and bred Houston jazz artist. She was born in Houston’s Third Ward August 30, 1937. She attended Black Elementary School and then Jack Yates High School. At an early age she began singing in the choir at Rosehill Baptist Church and first perfomed at the age of nine at the Masonic Temple in the Fourth Ward. Her first professional singing job was at the age of 12 at the Manhattan Club in Galveston.
She continued singing professionally while in school, however her singing was secondary in importance to her studies. Even before she graduated, her vocals were in demand. During her senior year she was invited to accompany Lionel Hampton’s group to tour Europe. Upon graduation it was understood in Ms. Brown’s immediate family that she would pursue a singing career full time, she had decided against college because she felt it would be a burden on her parents. Until that time she sang locally with her brother’s group, performing at clubs with her mother accompanying. When she did begin singing with (all male) groups on tour however, her career was almost stifled by the concerns of an extended family member that the entertainment business was unsavory. Ms. Brown’s mother relented against the cynicism and encouraged her daughter toward her chosen goals.
On a Los Angeles vacation in 1957 she sat in with organist Earl Grant at the Club Pigalle. She was hired on the spot that night for an engagement that lasted a whole year. From there Ms. Brown went on to Dallas, Texas to work for Jack Ruby. (Yes, that Jack Ruby!) That too lasted for more than a year. After having been discovered by Associated Booking Corporation's (ABC) branch manager, Tony Zoppi, she was hired by the legendary Joe Glaser himself and given the opportunity to join either jazz greats Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington.
She chose Louis Armstrong and was with Mr. Armstrong from 1961 to 1968. They were sensational years during which Armstrong performed almost continuously both in the U.S. and on four continents. During that time Ms. Brown was immortalized on sound recordings and film. She appears with Louis in the film Louis Armstrong and All Stars (1961) and in a duet with Armstrong in the film Solo, directed by Johnny Winter. Recordings include The Essential Louis Armstrong, Louis Armstrong and His All Stars En Concert avec Europe 1, Sleepy Time Down South and many other live performances with Louis currently available on CD. After worldwide acclaim and exposure with Armstrong (whose ailing health had began to bring a twilight close to his great and illustrious career) she then went on to Nevada headlining shows throughout the Nevada circuit.
In 1971, after 23 years of performing, Ms. Brown took leave from the stage and returned to Houston to care for her ailing parents. Later, she opened what soon became a very popular barber and beauty shop with her brother Alphonse. Still, entertainment will forever be her first love. She continues to dazzle audiences at local gigs, performances in the United States and on European tours, while continuing to work professionally as an insurance consultant.
Jewel Brown has recently been the featured vocalist with The Heritage Hall Jazz Band in its 28th year of traveling worldwide, presenting authentic traditional New Orleans jazz with an all-star complement of famous New Orleans musicians. The current edition, under the direction of Gregg Stafford, represents the very apex of the musical form. The Heritage Hall Jazz Band has played for princes, presidents, and just plain folks, thrilling audiences wherever they appear.
Source: James Nadal