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Ted Brown: Standard Practice

At 85, the saxophonist just wants to play

Ted Brown
Ted Brown

The mustachioed 85-year-old tenor saxophonist Ted Brown prefers to play over the changes to well-known standards. His own compositions, even, are merely fresh lines on top of familiar chord progressions: “Little Quail” is based on “I’ll Remember April”; “Smog Eyes” is his take on “There Will Never Be Another You.” But this is not evidence that Brown is unwilling to try new things; he just wants to be able to play with anyone, anywhere.

“I know some guys up around Boston who’ve [written songs with original changes]. You go someplace to play a session, they wanna play one of their tunes, you can’t play it,” Brown explains in February, seated in the back of a diner near his apartment in the Bronx. “At least if there’s common ground of a standard tune, strangers can get together and play anywhere in the world.”

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