Atlanta-raised alto saxophonist Marion Brown (1931), who relocated to New York in
1965 and almost right away, still an unknown, played on John Coltrane's Ascension, rapidly became one of the most radical but also most romantic of
the free improvisers.
His Quartet (november 1965), featuring
two basses (Ronnie Boykins and Reggie Johnson), drums (Rashied Ali) and
either trumpet (Alan Shorter) or tenor-saxophone (Bennie Maupin),
was one of the most forceful free session of the age, the natural successor
to Coltrane's masterpiece.
The 22-minute Capricorn Moon and the 18-minute Exhibition
displayed two sides of his art, but both were characterized by a unique skill
to mix the visceral and the lyrical.
Juba Lee (november 1966), recorded later with Boykins' bass replaced by trombonist Grachan Moncur III, Ali replaced by drummer Beaver Harris, and the notable addition of pianist Dave Burrell, was slightly less effervescent
but more intimate music (512e12, Juba-Lee, Iditus).
Why Not (october 1966) was also a transitional work, highlighted by Brown's
skills as a composer of ballads and by the elegance of the quartet
(pianist Stanley Cowell, Rashied Ali and bassist Norris "Sirone" Jones)
in interpreting them (La Sorella, Fortunata, Homecoming).
Three for Shepp (december 1966) was, de facto, a faithful continuation of
Archie Shepp's Four For Trane (three of the six tracks were Shepp
Acclaimed by the jazz pundits, it was actually the least original or Brown's albums.
His compositional skills are much more evident on
Porto Novo (december 1967), particularly in Porto Novo (a trio
with bassist Maarten van Regteben Altena and percussionist Han Bennink)
and the otherwordly And Then They Danced (a duo with trumpeter Leo Smith).
The lyirical, nostalgic and melancholy aspect of Brown's art fully blossomed
on Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (august 1970).
An extended line-up, centered around Brown on alto,
Anthony Braxton on all sorts of wind instruments,
Bennie Maupin on three more winds,
Chick Corea on piano, Andrew Cyrille on drums,
Jack Gregg on bass, Jeanne Lee and Gayle Palmore on vocals,
and everybody alternating at several percussion instruments,
Djinji's Corner may have been only a pretext for virtuoso exhibition
(particularly of Lee, possibly the greatest jazz vocalist of all times),
but the pastoral Afternoon of a Georgia Faun marked a departure in
Brown's art: free jazz as a music of tender feeling. This was the counterpart
to Coltrane's spirituality, a return to greener pastures by the intrepit
Brown pursued his newly-found soul with Geechee Recollections (june 1973), dedicated to his childhood and containing Karintha and three-part Tokalokaloka, and highlighted by mesmerizing alto and trumpet (Leo Smith) work,
with Sweet Earth Flying (may 1974), that juxtaposed his sentimental alto with
the keyboards of Muhal Richard Abrams and Paul Bley and was divided between the five-part Sweet Earth Flying and the four-part Eleven Light City,
The double-LP Duets documents two sessions: one with Leo Smith
(may 1970) and one with kedyboardist Elliott Schwartz, the 40-minute
Soundways (february 1973).
Vista (february 1975) featured
Anthony Davis (piano), Stanley Cowell (electric piano),
Harold Budd (celeste), Reggie Workman (bass),
Ed Blackwell (drums) and others, and debuted Budd's
Bismillahi 'Rrahmani 'Rrahim.
Reeds 'N Vibes (january 1978) and
Gemini (june 1983)
were collaborations with vibraphonist Gunter Hampel (with whom Brown had recorded in 1968).
Unlike most of his colleagues, who recorded too much, Brown recorded too little.
A sextet formed
by violinist Billy Bang and altoist Marion Brown
with Ahmed Abdullah
(trumpet and flugelhorn), bassists Norris Sirone and Fred
Hopkins, and drummer Andrew Cyrille.
is documented on The Group: Live (september 1986), containing
Brown's La Placita (18 minutes)
and a 25-minute version of Miriam Makeba's Amanpondo.
Marion Brown died in october 2010.
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