In Memoriam: William A. Brower Jr.

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William A. Brower Jr.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Brower family)

William A. Brower Jr., a former DownBeat contributor and longtime fixture on the Washington, D.C., jazz scene as a writer, programmer, stage manager and festival producer, died of complications from a stroke on April 12 at Georgetown University Hospital in the District. He was 72.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1948, Brower’s father was the first Black reporter at the white-owned Toledo Blade newspaper. A graduate of Antioch College, Brower moved to Washington, D.C., in 1971, where he worked as a community organizer and served as the jazz buyer for a local record store. Brower also managed a youth band that included trumpeter Wallace Roney, and went on to become an influential, behind-the-scenes figure in the city’s jazz community.

In addition to DownBeat, Brower contributed to a variety of publications, including JazzTimes, The Unicorn Times, Musician, American Visions, The Afro-American and The Washington Informer. He also worked on the PBS TV show Jumpstreet with Oscar Brown Jr. Brower wrote liner notes for notable jazz albums like saxophonist Arthur Blythe’s Black Arthur Blythe: Bush Baby, The Harper Brothers’ You Can Hide Inside The Music and saxophonist Willis Jackson’s Bar Wars. Brower conducted jazz oral histories for Howard University and The Smithsonian Institute.

Brower served as a stage manager for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Ingolstadter Jazztage in Germany. He was the co-founder and co-producer of the Capital City Jazz Festival in the mid-1980s.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy was his work for the late Rep. John Conyers (D–Mich.) as producer of the annual Jazz Panel and Concert presentations that took place during legislative conferences of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1985 to 2018. Under Brower’s leadership, these events featured some of brightest stars in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Geri Allen, the Count Basie Orchestra and Randy Weston.

Brower was instrumental in helping Congressman Conyers draft and pass House Resolution 57, which declared that jazz was “a national treasure” in 1987. He also assisted Conyers in drafting and promoting House Resolution 4280: The National Jazz Preservation Education Act of 2014, which seeks “to preserve knowledge and promote education about jazz in the United States and abroad.”

Brower is survived by a daughter, Tina Louise Brower-Thomas, and a son, Karl Brower. DB



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June 2021
Vijay Iyer
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