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Yesterday news became public that Janice Frink Brown, a journalist and educator who also sang on D.C. jazz bandstands under the name of “Uptown” Janice Brown, had passed away on Monday at Washington Hospital Center. She was 55 years old.

Brown’s death had been unknown even to many of her associates on the D.C. jazz scene until Thursday, when her obituary was published in her hometown newspaper, the Wilmington (North Carolina) Star-News. Cause of death was not given; however, Brown had been known to suffer increasingly severe upper respiratory problems.

Born and raised in Southport, N.C., Brown began to play clarinet at 10 years old. As she matured, she gravitated toward singing, eventually becoming a protege of legendary D.C. jazz vocalist Ronnie Wells. She became a much-loved jazz vocalist in the area, known for her wit and warmth as well as her exceptional timing. She was a regular performer at Monday Night Jazz at Vicino’s Restaurant in Silver Spring, Md., and a fixture on the annual Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival. She also released a CD, Two Shades of Brown.

Brown was also a respected journalist, serving for many years as a reporter and editor for the Washington Afro-American newspaper. But she was probably better known for her efforts as a broadcaster: Brown was a veteran radio personality, including a long stint as on-air staffer for WPFW-FM radio; in addition, she taught public speaking and broadcasting at the University of the District of Columbia (where she also took classes in the Jazz Studies program). She held a Master’s degree in communication from American University.

Brown’s funeral will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Carmel AME Church in Southport, N.C.

Image via WPFW