Saxophonist and producer, Carlos “Scooter” Brown, Jr. is no stranger to the stage, especially here at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz. As a JazzU alumnus and Program Director for Jazz Academy, he’s performed to audiences of all ages at JazzU showcases, as well as our educational events like Juice Box Jazz. What he’s never done before though is perform as a bandleader at Jazz St. Louis’ venerable Ferring Jazz Bistro. Next week, he will get to mark this dream off his bucket list.
Carlos Brown, Jr. + Ingenuity have performed together for about 4 years, but their chemistry suggests they’ve known each other for a lifetime. In fact, Brown and Ingenuity pianist, Antonio Foster have been playing together since high school when both were students at JazzU. As if it were destiny for them to continue their musical journey together, they found themselves both studying music at Northern Illinois University. It was here that they met bassist Sam “Slam” Dando. The trio has been playing together ever since. As for the fourth member of Ingenuity, Everette “Stix” Benton (drums), Carlos has known him since the 6th grade.
Though each member is busy with his own projects, they’re able to find time to get together often and simply hang out and play music. The relationship, described as a “collective of friends,” is what makes their music special. “Hanging out together and jamming all these years has allowed us to click. We’ve developed a level of trust with one another,” Carlos explains. He goes on to say that when they play together, each person is allowed the space to safely be vulnerable and share his own story. “If I want to try something different that I’m feeling in the moment, I know they’ll have my back or they’ll tell me, ‘Hey, maybe you should try this.’” It’s this relationship between friends that helps them not only sound better, but to evolve and grow as individual musicians and as a unit.
The trust and friendship they share provide them the freedom to have fun and allow that vibe to permeate through their music. After all, the goal of their music is to make people feel better and to elevate the audience. “Life music,” as he calls it.
Avoiding the term, “band,” Brown refers to Ingenuity as a “creative collective” so as not to limit the artists’ creativity. “There are no labels for this show,” the progressive bandleader emphasizes. Audiences will hear a mix of originals from the group, with guest performances highlighting an emerging St. Louis jazz sound as well as the multi-talents of Jazz St. Louis staff. One thing he assures is: expect to have a good time.
As for being a first-time bandleader at The Ferring Jazz Bistro, Brown is genuinely grateful. He sees it as a kind of homecoming and admits he’s a little nervous. “When I would step on that stage before, I would imagine it with all the people in the audience…and now it’s actually happening.” A milestone moment made even more special because he gets to share that moment on stage with his best friends. “I wouldn’t trade this, not even if I could have Herbie Hancock backing me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Carlos Brown, Jr. + Ingenuity perform at Jazz St. Louis on July 12 – 13 at 7:30 PM both nights. Tickets are on sale and range from $11.50 for students to $22.50 for general admission. In the meantime, check out some samples from Carlos’ latest album, “Growth.”