Gerald Brashear

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Gerald Brashear was a prominent Seattle jazz performer from the 1940s to the mid-1970s. He played the conga drums and saxophone and was an inventive scat singer. Brashear married jazz singer Wanda Brown after the death of Wanda’s first husband, drummer Vernon Brown. As well as performing with his wife, Brashear played with Ray Charles in his early days in Seattle, as well as Della Reese, Cecil Young, and Wyatt Ruther. His brother, Oscar, was a well-known jazz piano player on the Seattle scene, and sometimes performed in concert with Ernestine Anderson.

In Paul de Barros’ Jackson Street After Hours (Sasquatch Books, 1993) Ernestine Anderson is quoted: “Gerald Brashear’s conga-playing was no small part of the act. Brashear had taught himself to play the style of Dizzy’s Cuban drummer, Chano Pozo. Buddy Catlett says Brashear ’played like a Cuban’, he was that good.”

“Gerald had a dry sense of humor. The two of them (Brashear and Young) together were just craziness on the loose. Cecil was always playing crank jokes on people. A prankster. We used to wonder when he slept - he’d always be doing something, no matter what time of day or night it was. He reminded me of an overgrown kid.... He never grew up, in that respect. You had to laugh when you were around these two people. I mean the Marx Brothers was nothing compared to these guys."

Recording history[edit]

In 1951 Brashear played the conga and sax with the Seattle-based Cecil Young Quartet. Jackson Street After Hours notes: “The Cecil Young Quartet album, released on King in 1951 as a 10 inch LP under the title Concert of Cool Jazz was the first local record since the Maxin Trio’s to make an impact outside Seattle … The Norman record showcased Brashear and so impressed San Francisco jazz critic Ralph Gleason that he encouraged local disc jockeys to play the cut, writing that Brashear’s scat solo on ‘Who Pared the Car/.’ was the best scat solo ever recorded. Gerald’s solo is so incontestably in a class by itself, Eddie Jefferson and Jon Hendricks notwithstanding...Brashear weaves curlicue Lestoian solos with an appealing dry, woody tone, fluid, fleet phrasing, and spitfire tonguing.”[1]

Brashear’s last album, recorded in 1973, was Easy Living with the (Wyatt) Ruther IV, with Federico Cervantes and Ron Floreno.

The album cover noted: “Gerald Brashear truly deserves the title of 'MUSIC MAN'. Best known for his inspiring performance on the tenor sax, he can be expected to follow his solo with an accompanying beat on the conga drum (sometimes even producing conga melodies) and then, as if that weren’t enough, he is a master of reviving interest in 'skat' singing. Gerald has worked with Ray Charles, Tllie Tolles, Cecil Young - only to mention a few, and most recently backed the Della Reese Touring show. In 1955 he won the National Metronome Awards for Conga and Bongo drums.”


  1. ^ DeBarros, Paul, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (1993).