"I've always played the piano," says Reuben Brown, "although I've never been what you would call a formal student of the piano. What happened was, when I was young I had a couple of teachers, but we had difficulty because I could already play. As I grew older, I got books and from the other musicians -- I began to develop my own thing." Brown's "own thing" will share the bill Friday evening with pianist Cecil Taylor related story, Page G1 in the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium. A District Curators-sponsored event, the concert is the second in the Thelonious Monk Solo Piano Series.
"My first job," Brown says with a chuckle, "was when I was 7 years old, a party for a kid. Drums, piano and there was a guy that played a little guitar -- we got a dollar for the job. Back in the early '50s -- I joined the union when I was 17 or 18 -- I started playing in rhythm and blues bands. Later I got into the jazz scene." That thumbnail sketch is modesty carried to the nth degree; Brown has spent a quarter-century on the bandstand with hundreds of luminaries, most of whom request him as accompanist when they come to the Washington or Baltimore area.
"The creativity level was much higher then," Brown says of the period when he began, "because musicians really had to go inside themselves . . . Commercialization, I think, has removed the desire of people to seek out the innovator, the person who is original. They have machines now that can notate -- we had to get it by ear."