Virtual Memories Show 377:
Keith Henry Brown

“I was shocked no one had done a kids picture book about Miles Davis. I didn’t even read the script; I just said yes!”

Designer, artist and writer Keith Henry Brown joins the show to talk about his new kids book, Birth of The Cool: How Miles Davis Found His Sound (Page Street Books, written by Kathleen Cornell Berman). We get into the twists and turns of his illustration career, exploring the balancing act of art & commerce in his main role as an art director, the role of jazz in his work, how he started off by achieving his childhood goal of drawing for Marvel Comics, but rapidly realized it wasn’t for him, the ongoing evolution of his style, how he discovered his place at the Society of Illustrators, the longform graphic novel he’s hoping to create, the issues of race in his career, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Birth of The Cool!

“Part of my intense love for jazz is because it’s an incredibly brilliant art form that requires an incredible amount of talent, skill, practice, and intellectualism, and it’s a high art. And Black people had a lot to do with the creation of it.”

“I live in this weird balance of life where I’ve been treated incredibly well, and there’s another part where people don’t know me and they cross the street because they feel threatened.”

“Once I had my own style, I realized I had my own language.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Keith Henry Brown got his start drawing superheroes, but music has always been his true inspiration. He has worked as a designer for advertising agencies and high profile music-related projects, including creating posters for Jazz Appreciation Month and The Newport Jazz Festival, and creating jazz album covers for artists such as Christian McBride, Kevin Eubanks, and Wynton Marsalis. Keith’s first children’s book, Birth of The Cool: How Miles Davis Found His Sound, was published by Page Street Books in 2019 and received a Starred Review from Kirkus.

Born and raised in Staten Island, Keith is father to two magnificent boys (whom he affectionately calls his “two knuckleheads”) and lives and works in Brooklyn, surrounded by his favorite Spider-man, Batman and Black Panther action figures.

Follow Keith on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Keith supplied by him (illustrations are by him, too). It’s on my instagram.