Jack Brownlow

Rifftides will be in suspension for a while. I don’t know for how long. Two years ago, I wrote this about a great pianist:

Jack Brownlow, at 81, has doggedly refused to let a round of health problems put him out of commission. He is gigging less, but a stream of colleagues comes to his house to play music with him and learn from him. He is an inspiration to them, as he has been to me since I was sixteen.

This evening, the health problems won. I’ve lost my best friend, a wise teacher, the older brother I never had, a musician who from the time I was a child moved me with the profound beauty of his playing.
Jack Brownlow
When Paul Desmond heard Jack for the first time, he said, “If I played piano, that’s how I’d want to play it.”
There is a lot to sort out. I’ll check back in as soon as possible.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Bill Crow says

    Doug, I’m terribly sorry to hear of Jack’s passing. I only met him once, when I visited his home on a trip out that way. I liked him, and admired his playing a lot. I know how hard it is to lose a close friend like that.

  2. Cathy Mowrey Bingaman says

    Having left Seattle many years ago, I lost contact with Jack and didn’t know of his passing until now. What a loss. My former brother in law, Phil Snyder played in his trio back in the mid 70’s and I used to go to Canlis quite often with my first husband to hear him play…how I will miss him. He always knew I was there when I sent him a note asking him to play “It’s Magic”. No one to play it for me anymore. Rest easy Jack, you touched a lot of us as softly and beautifully as you did your piano.

  3. says

    I first heard Jack at the America’s Cup restaurant in Seattle in the seventies but never talked to him. I went into Canlis for the first around 1980. I asked him to play Two Cigarettes in the Dark. He did. We chatted. I was amazed how he could play beautifully and talk at the same time. I dropped into Canlis a month or two later. I paused to look down from the top of the stair at the bar and Jack playing piano. As I walked down the stair Jack started playing Two Cigarettes in the Dark. Jack and I got to be friends. When I did my cabaret show Can’t We Be Friends: Women of Tin Pan Alley in Seattle in 1993 Jack played the piano for the entire engagement. I was disappointed I couldn’t get him involved when it turned into the PBS documentary Your’s For a Song which was produced in New York in 1999. One of the last times I saw Jack at Canlis was a night that Fred Radke had a party there. His group was very noisy. I asked Jack to play the 1931 Van Steeden and Clarkson song “Home.” The way Jack played it was like nothing else I’d ever heard. After a while Fred heard it through the din and rushed over to ask the name of the tune. When he realized it was a song he’d heard many times he was shocked. Jack could do that, find something in a song, that no one else knew was there. I saw Jack a few months before he died. I was in Seattle with my wife Anne and took her over to meet him. He told us he had just come through some terrible health issues. He was in excellent spirits. When I heard he had died I was shocked. I miss him.