An Oregon icon in jazz, drummer Mel Brown has been labeled the "Gentleman of Jazz," with a career spanning over 40 years. In recognition of his contributions to the cultural life of Oregon, Mel received the Governor's Arts Award in 2002. Mel set out on a quest to become a great drummer in the seventh grade, practicing 19 hours a day, 6 days a week. His professional career began with a stint with Earl Grant. Mel went on to be a staff drummer for the Motown Music Corporation, recording and touring with groups including the Temptations, the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson. He subsequently spent ten years working with Diana Ross, Suzanne Somers, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, and others.
The jazz artists Mel has played with reads like a "Who's Who" of jazz, including Gene Harris, George Benson, Teddy Edwards, Jeoy DeFrancesco, Bill Watrous, Leroy Vinnegar, and many more. For the past six years, Mel has led bands three nights a week at Portland's Jimmy Mak's (listed by Downbeat as "one of the world's top 100 places to hear jazz").
Mel has received many local awards, and his sextet received first place in the Hennessey Jazz Search in 1989. The City of Portland proclaimed June 22, 1989 Mel Brown Day in recognition of his achievements. When Mel received the Governot's Arts Award, David Hudson of the Regional Arts & Culture Council wrote: "Oregon is widely recognized for its rich jazz scene, and the enormous following supporting that genre. Mel Brown is largely responsible for this phenomenon."