Brad Gowans had a colorful and versatile career in prebop jazz, seeking to stretch the boundaries of the music in unusual ways. A multi-instrumentalist who was skilled on both reeds and brass, Gowans alternated early on between clarinet and valve trombone. He worked with the Rhapsody Makers Band, Tommy DeRosa's New Orleans Jazz Band and Perley Breed's Orchestra. He played cornet in 1926 with Joe Venuti, gigged with Jimmy Durante (who led a jazz band during the era) and then worked with Mal Hallett (1927-1929) and Bert Lown's Orchestra. Discouraged by the Depression, Gowans worked outside of music for several years before joining Bobby Hackett in 1936. After working in Boston with Frank Ward, in 1938 he joined Wingy Manone as a valve trombonist and played again with Bobby Hackett. A brief stint with Joe Marsala was followed by Gowans becoming a member of Bud Freeman's Summa Cum Laude Band (1939-1940). He was a regular at Nick's, playing Dixieland with a variety of top Chicago jazz musicians. After working with Ray McKinley's big band and Art Hodes, Gowans re-created the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (playing clarinet) on an interesting series of recordings. After leaving music for a short period, he played with Max Kaminsky (1945-1946), was with the Jimmy Dorsey Big Band and worked with Nappy Lamare (1949-50). Gowans freelanced (mostly in California and Las Vegas). He collapsed in January 1954 while playing with Eddie Skrivanek's Sextet from Hunger and never recovered, passing away eight months later. Brad Gowans, who wrote arrangements for recordings by Freeman and Lee Wiley and invented the valide (a combination slide/valve trombone that never caught on), made many records as a sideman including with Red Nichols' Red Heads as early as 1926. As a leader he recorded four obscure titles (in 1926, 1927, and 1934) plus a full album for Victor in 1946.
Brad Gowans Biography
by Scott Yanow