Central to the jazz program is the eighteen-member big band. It consists of five woodwind players (who play saxophones most of the time), eight brass players (four trumpets and four trombones), a vocalist and a "rhythm section" of piano, bass, drums and guitar. This arrangement of musicians has been the traditional jazz "big band" format since the days of the great Ellington, Basie and Goodman bands in the 1930s.
The band's repertoire has included classic jazz pieces by such composers as Duke Ellington (at a 1990 collaborative retrospective of Ellington's music with the Brown Dance Extension) as well as modern jazz works by Thad Jones, Herbie Hancock, Bob Minzer, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Dave Holland.
World class musicians such as James Moody, Carl Fontana, Rick Margitza, Dave Pietro, Gerald Wilson, Clark Terry, Bill Watrous, Dick Hyman, Annie Ross, Tito Puente, Joe Henderson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Slide Hampton, Gary Burton, Phil Markowitz, Rufus Reid, Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Bob Mintzer, Ingrid Jensen, Conrad Herwig, Eldar Djangirov, Jim Doherty, Anat Cohen, Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Melissa Aldana and Gerry Mulligan have performed with the Brown Jazz Band in concerts on and off campus.
The Brown Jazz Band tours regularly. Previous concert trips have been to Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montreal, New York (in Carnegie Hall), London and in Tokyo (at Suntory Hall), Hiroshima, Gotenba, Japan, as well as Amsterdam (at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the renowned jazz club Bimhuis) and in Madrid, Spain (at the jazz club Clamores, and at the Unversidad de Alcala de Heneres). In recent years, the Jazz Band has traveled to Rome, Italy, Coimbra, Portugal, Reykjavik, Iceland, Dublin, Ireland, and São Miguel, Açores. Last year, activities includuded a concert tour to Havana, Cuba.