Biography: Michael Brewin
Michael Brewin is a musician, composer, author/writer, producer, historian, college educator, and publisher.
A direct descendant of President George Washington’s maternal family, he was born in Cambridge, England. Michael Brewin studied classical violin in the U.S. with Elmer Setzer, a section leader in the Cleveland Orchestra (father of violinist Philip Setzer, Emerson Quartet). As a teenager, he taught himself guitar and sang in groups in Ohio, and in Brussels, Belgium, and Rome, Italy. He earned a National Merit Scholar Commendation at St. Stephen’s School in Rome.
At Connecticut's Wesleyan University, he studied ethnomusicology with Indian and African master musicians, jazz with Ken McIntyre, and electronic music with John Cage and Alvin Lucier, while also performing regularly at New England colleges and coffeehouses.
Then, Michael Brewin began performing his compositions in prominent Boston jazz and folk clubs in 1971. At one extended gig at the Jazz Workshop/Paul’s Mall, he sang jazz for several months backed by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (lead guitarist of Steely Dan) and a rhythm section. In fact, Brewin and a fellow singer gave Baxter his unique nickname. He listened intently to other musicians he met who were also performing there, including guitarists George Benson and Larry Coryell, and pianist Bill Evans.
While performing his own music in Boston, Brewin was offered a record contract by guitarist Chet Atkins’ co-producer to move to Nashville and be produced by Atkins himself. However, Brewin declined, concerned that he would thereafter be labeled only as a country musician, thereby restricting his music.
Brewin moved to New York in 1971, where he played guitar in bands represented by the William Morris Agency, did recording sessions, and played lead guitar in a group produced by John Lennon (of the Beatles). During this period, New York music critics hailed him as "an undiscovered Clapton" (the New York Ace). A 1972 Village Voice centerfold of Brewin declared, "Fastest moving, leaving rock far behind...a new era."
Michael Brewin eventually left New York, and moved to California, where he immersed himself in progressive jazz improvisation, explored Latin fusion and world music.
During the mid-1970's, Brewin met guitarist Carlos Santana and was a guest of Santana at his Marin County home. Michael jammed with Carlos at his recording studio and then began teaching jazz guitar to Carlos' brother, Jorge. Jorge passed along some of this knowledge to Carlos (as related in Guitar Player magazine in 1975). When Carlos heard Michael Brewin play an acoustic guitar, he exclaimed, "You have a truly unique style on acoustic guitar -- you play with soul and feeling." Similarly, guitar avatar John McLaughlin told him, "Someday people will be learning your guitar solos."
Brewin performed steadily in Southern California during the 1970s, where he worked with outstanding jazz, fusion, and Latin musicians. One night in 1977, singer-guitarist Dan Fogelberg joined him onstage at Brewin’s regular gig. Fogelberg stated, "You're the best guitarist I've ever heard." Fogelberg thereupon referred Brewin to play lead guitar for Boz Scaggs’ hit band; however, Brewin never followed up by even phoning Scaggs, again preferring anonymity and privacy to stardom.
Since 1979, Michael Brewin has lived in the Pacific Northwest. ("The best jazz around:...The Michael Brewin Trio." - Seattle Post-Intelligencer). He has worked with numerous jazz musicians, including jazz-blues master Mose Allison, as well as musicians from the bands of Miles Davis, Airto Moreira, Les McCann, Diana Ross, Al DiMeola, Matrix, and Dave Brubeck.
Brewin has also produced studio sessions, commercial recordings, and concerts (e.g. Chick Corea, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Kronos Quartet) and he has provided consulting services to jazz festivals (e.g. Jazz on the Water, Newport) and universities. In recent years, he has produced soundtracks at his digital recording studio, SOULJAZZ. Upon hearing Brewin play guitar in Oregon in the 1990’s, jazz guitarist Larry Coryell declared, “You sure get around on that guitar!”
Writing, Teaching, and other work
Brewin also did post-graduate work in education, completed a graduate degree in history, and began teaching college classes (music and then history) in the 1980's, in addition to teaching jazz and classical guitar. Besides teaching at three colleges, he has also served on non-profit, educational, cultural, and municipal boards.
Michael Brewin has been active in public service, too, beginning when he helped to found Earth Day in 1970, and later serving as an aide to Ron Wyden (U.S. Senator). In 1992, Brewin was nominated to the Oregon Senate. The editors of the largest metropolitan newspaper of the Pacific Northwest (The Oregonian) wrote: "Brewin has much to offer... he has a keen knowledge of how government works and scholarly notions of how the democratic process could work better." An Oregonian columnist, Jonathan Nicholas, wrote: “This is just about as close, I guess, as an Oregon legislative candidate might ever get to being God.”
As a writer, Brewin has numerous published articles and has been an editor for several publications (Jazzscene, Clackamas County News, etc.). He has also done professional photography since the 1980s. In 2000, he finished writing his definitive jazz appreciation/history book SOULJAZZ: The Heart of the Music, which was endorsed by music faculty at various universities, including Stanford University and Portland State University, and by notable jazz musicians. SOULJAZZ: The Heart of the Music also features exclusive interviews with a number of the world’s greatest jazz musicians. Reputable, informed reviewers wrote: "Part jazz history, part jazz present...SOULJAZZ will enlighten you...” (Jazz Notes, KMHD-Jazz Radio); and "Michael Brewin presents a thorough exploration of jazz music through scores of interviews, explanations of different playing styles and a wealth of information to help a novice start a jazz collection or an enthusiast to complete one." (The Oregonian)
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