Where We Live: Portland’s Godfather of jazz

On Wednesday, Portland's 'Godfather of Jazz' will give a special performance

Mel Brown is Portland's "godfather of jazz." (Courtesy: Mel Brown)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland is the center of the jazz universe during the week of the PDX Jazz Festival.

On Wednesday, Portland’s “Godfather of Jazz” will give a special performance and tribute to the memory of Jimmy Mak’s jazz club.

Mel Brown is Portland's "godfather of jazz." (Courtesy: Mel Brown)
Mel Brown is Portland’s “godfather of jazz.” (Courtesy: Mel Brown)

Mel Brown is a Portland jazz master. As talented as he is humble, Brown is the face and the sound of jazz in Portland.

He’s also a headliner at the 2017 PDX Jazz Festival.

“Well, it’s quite a surprise with me being considered the jazz master. I’m thinking, me?” Brown said.

Brown will debut his big band in a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie at Portland’s Revolution Hall, the old Washington High School where Brown was a student.

The PDX Jazz Festival lineup

Also performing, the Jimmy Mak All Stars, musicians who set Jimmy Mak’s as Portland’s jazz destination.

“Oh, it was like the Empire State Building. People in New York – everybody knew about Jimmy Mak’s,” Brown said.

The club closed on New Year’s Eve 2016 as owner Jimmy Makarounis battled throat cancer. He died the next day before he could move the club.

Jimmy Mak, owner of the famous jazz club named after himself, died while battling throat cancer. (File - Photo)
Jimmy Mak, owner of the famous jazz club named after himself, died while battling throat cancer. (File – Photo)

“I think Jimmy- he hung around to see the close, the actual close,” Brown said. “We’ll have another place. There’s people working on stuff right now.”

Brown’s journey into jazz started with Motown.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, he toured with everyone from the Temptations, to Smokey Robinson to Stevie Wonder. He was also Diana Ross’ drummer, before and after the Supremes.

Now, Brown plays host as the jazz festival brings top performers to Portland.

Brown’s Big Band and the Jimmy Mak All Stars will play Revolution Hall in Southeast Portland on Wednesday evening. The event will include a tribute to Jimmy Mak, the man and the club.

Mel Brown is Portland's "godfather of jazz." (Courtesy: Mel Brown)
Mel Brown is Portland’s “godfather of jazz.” (Courtesy: Mel Brown)