Asian American Orchestra
evolution of jazz over the course of the 20th century can be traced through the sounds of its instrumental
combinations — from the archetypal New Orleans ensembles led by Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton,
through the resplendence of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, to the explorations of Afro-Cuban fusion by Dizzy
Gillespie's bop big bands.
In the global community of the 21st century,
Anthony Brown's Orchestra presents music
that blends the sonorities and improvisational approaches of the jazz tradition with Asian musical instruments
1997, leaders of San Francisco's Asian American creative music movement founded the Asian American Jazz Orchestra (AAJO),
under the auspices of a San Francisco-based, federally funded multimedia consortium project to provide provide education nationally about the Japanese internment experiences of World War II.
The AAJO featured critically acclaimed musicians
Anthony Brown, Jon Jang, Mark Izu, Hafez Modirzadeh and Francis Wong, as well as other Bay area jazz and world music artists, many of
whom possessed fluency on a variety of traditional instruments.
Brown as director, the Orchestra, in collaboration with San Jose
Taiko, toured and performed a series of extended
works composed respectively by Brown, Izu and Jang. Excerpts of these live performances were compiled for the
Orchestra's first release, Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire. "Rhymes
(For Children)," from Brown's composition, E.O. 9066: Truth Be Told, became the theme music for Pacific Time,
a syndicated weekly Public Radio International newsmagazine.
With the completion of the Big Bands project, Brown chose to continue working with and leading an expanded version of the AAJO. The ensemble was renamed
Brown's Asian American Orchestra, in keeping with the traditions of King
Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and Machito's Afro Cubans.
In celebration of Duke Ellington's centennial in 1999, Brown developed and recorded the
Orchestra's interpretation of Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn's
Far East Suite, which garnered the Orchestra a 2000 Grammy nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. In 2000, late jazz saxophonist and MacArthur genius grant recipient Steve Lacy joined the Orchestra to record
Monk's Moods, featuring new interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions produced in collaboration with Monk's original producer, Orrin Keepnews. Downbeat magazine rated
Monk's Moods a "five-star
and one of four "Best CDs of 2003."
In 2005, with the release of the new CD, Rhapsodies, the Orchestra, which now numbers from eight to sixteen musicians, continues its musical evolution as
Brown's Orchestra. The Orchestra’s 2008 release,TEN represents the culmination of a decade of music making by the Asian American Orchestra, highlighting favorites from the Orchestra's recorded repertoire and including selections from the original score for American Conservatory Theater’s premiere of After The War. India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane, recorded live at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, CA, is the latest CD by the Asian American Orchestra and showcases North Indian instruments tabla and the sarod as well as African percussion in new arrangements of classic Coltrane compositions including "Living Space," "Olé," "Liberia," "Dahomey Dance," and the extended works, "India" and "Africa."