|Born||September 8, 1931|
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
|Died||October 18, 2010 79) (aged|
Marion Brown (September 8, 1931– October 18, 2010 ) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, writer, visual artist, and ethnomusicologist. He is best known as a member of the 1960s avant-garde jazz scene in New York City, playing alongside musicians such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and John Tchicai. He performed on Coltrane's landmark 1965 album Ascension . Allmusic reviewer Scott Yanow called him "one of the brightest and most lyrical voices of the 1960s avant-garde."
Brown, the grandson of an escaped slave from Georgia's Sea Islands,was born in Atlanta in 1931 and was raised by a single mother. He began studying the saxophone at an early age, inspired by Charlie Parker. He left high school in the 10th grade and joined the army. During his three-year enlistment, he played alto saxophone, clarinet, and baritone saxophone, and was stationed in Hokkaido for some time. In 1956, he returned to Atlanta and enrolled at Clark College, where he studied music, taking lessons from Wayman Carver. After graduating, he moved to Washington, DC, where he enrolled at Howard University's law school. During this time, he began listening to musicians such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Archie Shepp, all of whom he would soon meet and come to know.
In 1962, Brown left Howard and moved to New York City, where he befriended a number of musicians, as well as writers such as Amiri Baraka (then known as LeRoi Jones), who was also a Howard drop-out,and A. B. Spellman, a Howard graduate. According to Brown, "The writers who listened to me and liked my playing, they inspired me to be better, and I inspired them to keep listening. LeRoi Jones opened the door for me; he introduced me to the world. He was a very beautiful and very smart person." He also met Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp, and introduced Shepp to Baraka. Brown recalled that Shepp "offered me the opportunity to play with him. But I didn't have a saxophone, so Ornette Coleman let me use his white plastic saxophone to get started." According to writer Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Brown's "conversations with Baraka and Shepp aided them in their thinking through of the relationships between the American jazz avant-garde and African musical traditions." Brown later played a minor acting role in the original production of Baraka's Dutchman .
In 1964, Brown performed with Shepp and Bill Dixon in Four Days in December, a series sponsored by the Jazz Composers Guild.The following year, he participated in the recording of Shepp's Fire Music as well as John Coltrane's Ascension . According to Brown, he was introduced to Coltrane by Shepp: "Archie told him about my music and he started to listen to it and he liked it. And then, several times, he would come to hear me play and he liked that. So when he decided to do Ascension, I fit the picture of somebody that he wanted in it." Regarding the music on Ascension, Brown stated: "You could use this record to heat up your apartment on a cold morning." Regarding the recording session, he recalled: "We did two takes, and they both had that kind of thing in them that makes people scream. The people who were in the studio were screaming. I don't know how the engineers kept the screams out of the record. Spontaneity was the thing. Trane had obviously thought a lot about what he wanted to do, but he wrote most of it out in the studio. Then he told everybody what he wanted: he played this line and he said that everybody would play that line in the ensembles. Then he said he wanted crescendi until we were together, and then we got into it."
During the mid-1960s, Brown began recording under his own name (Marion Brown Quartet, recorded in 1965 and released on ESP in 1966;Juba-Lee, recorded in 1966 and released on Fontana in 1967; Why Not, recorded in 1966 and released on ESP in 1968; and Three for Shepp , recorded and released in 1966 on Impulse! ). (Coltrane had used his influence at Impulse! to help Brown secure his own recording date with that label. ) Brown also performed with Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders, and recorded with Burton Greene on the album Burton Greene Quartet.
In 1967, Brown moved to Europe, where he continued performing and recording, and where he developed an interest in architecture, Impressionistic art, African music and the music of Erik Satie. He was an American Fellow in Music Composition and Performance at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris.Late that year, while in Holland, he recorded Porto Novo with Han Bennink and Maarten Altena. While in Europe, Brown met and befriended Gunter Hampel, and in 1968 they recorded the soundtrack for Marcel Camus' film Le temps fou, with a band featuring Steve McCall, Barre Phillips, and Ambrose Jackson. Brown and Hampel went on to record two more albums, Gesprächsfetzen (recorded in 1968) and Marion Brown In Sommerhausen, recorded in 1969. While in Europe, Brown also performed in duos with Leo Smith, recording Creative Improvisation Ensemble.
In 1970, Brown returned to the United States, settling in Connecticut, where he at first worked in elementary schools, "teaching children how to make instruments and create their own music,"and where he continued his musical partnership with Leo Smith. He composed and performed incidental music for a Georg Büchner play, Woyzeck. From 1971 to 1976, he worked in a variety of teaching positions at Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Colby College, and Amherst College, and in 1976 he earned a Masters degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. His master's thesis was entitled "Faces and Places: The Music and Travels of a Contemporary Jazz Musician". During this time, he also studied South Indian flute with P. Vishwanathan. In the early 1970s, Brown also recorded a trilogy of albums influenced by poet Jean Toomer, reflecting on his southern upbringing, in which "images of the Georgia countryside, many of them drawn from Toomer's poetry, and improvisational techniques of African, AfroAmerican, and European provenance enrich and revivify one another:" Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970, ECM), which featured Anthony Braxton, Bennie Maupin, Jeanne Lee, Chick Corea, and Andrew Cyrille among others; Geechee Recollections (1973, Impulse!), which featured Leo Smith and Steve McCall among others; and Sweet Earth Flying (1974, Impulse!, named after a line in a Toomer poem ), which featured Muhal Richard Abrams and Steve McCall among others. Reviewer Robert Palmer wrote: "The trilogy as a whole is an exemplary demonstration of how... a thoughtful artist can explore a 'subject' through a variety of techniques, processes, and formal disciplines. The shifting of perspective and approach from work to work is reminiscent of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and indeed Brown's examination of the emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic ramifications of his origins is the sort of thing one finds frequently in literature and rarely in improvisional music.
During the 1970s, Brown also recorded with Archie Shepp ( Attica Blues , 1972and Attica Blues Big Band Live At The Palais Des Glaces, 1979 ), Leo Smith (Duets, 1973 ), Elliott Schwartz (Duets and Soundways, both 1973 ), Stanley Cowell ( Regeneration , 1975 ), Harold Budd ( The Pavilion of Dreams , 1976 ), and Grachan Moncur III (Shadows, 1977 ). He also released ten albums under his own name. In 1972 and 1976, Brown received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, which he used to compose and publish several pieces for solo piano, one of which was based on poetry from Jean Toomer's book Cane. He also transcribed some piano and organ music by Erik Satie including his Messe des pauvres and Pages mysterieuses, and arranged the composer's Le Fils des étoiles for two guitars and violin.
In the 1980s, Brown continued recording, and also began focusing on drawing and painting, exhibiting his artwork at a number of shows.His charcoal portrait of blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson was included in an art show called Jus' Jass at Kenkeleba Gallery in New York City, which also included works by artists such as Romare Bearden, Charles Searles and Joe Overstreet. In 1984, he published an autobiography titled "Recollections". In the 1990s, he occasionally performed and read his poetry at Studio 5C in New York. By the late 1990s, Brown had fallen ill; due to a series of surgeries and a partial leg amputation, Brown resided for a time in the Bethany Methodist Home, Brooklyn. He spent his final years in an assisted living facility in Hollywood, Florida, where he died in 2010, aged 79.
In September 2010, Deval Patrick, then governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation naming September 15 "Marion Brown Day."
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Marion Brown among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Pianist Amina Claudine Myers' debut album Poems for Piano: The Piano Music of Marion Brown (Sweet Earth, 1979) featured Brown's compositions predominantly.
Aside from his influence in the jazz avant-garde, several other areas of music have taken interest in Brown's music. Indie rockers Superchunk included a song called "Song for Marion Brown" on their album Indoor Living ,and Savath and Savalas released a piece entitled "Two Blues for Marion Brown" as part of Hefty Records's Immediate Action series.
His Name Is Alive performed a tribute concert in 2004, performing solely Brown's music. In 2007, High Two released portions of the concert with studio versions as Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown .
"It is wrong to say that free jazz does not swing. It swings to a high number of beats. It is polyrhythmic. But it is hard for people listening to it to realize that... Free jazz is closer to African beats than bop or swing were; African rhythm is very complex."
"My reference is the blues, and that's where my music comes from. I do listen to music of other cultures, but I just find them interesting. I don't have to borrow from them. My music and my past are rich enough. B.B. King is my Ravi Shankar".
With Harold Budd
With John Coltrane
With Stanley Cowell
With the Gunter Hampel All Stars
With Grachan Moncur III
With Archie Shepp
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was at the forefront of free jazz. He led at least fifty recording sessions and appeared on many albums by other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. Over the course of his career, Coltrane's music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. He remains one of the most influential saxophonists in music history. He received many posthumous awards, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church and a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. His second wife was pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane. The couple had three children: John Jr. (1964–1982), a bassist; Ravi, a saxophonist; and Oran, also a saxophonist.
Archie Vernon Shepp is an American jazz saxophonist, educator and playwright who since the 1960s has played a central part in the development of avant-garde jazz.
James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray was one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.
Rashied Ali, born Robert Patterson was an American free jazz and avant-garde drummer best known for playing with John Coltrane in the last years of Coltrane's life.
James Emory Garrison was an American jazz double bassist. He is best remembered for his association with John Coltrane from 1961 to 1967.
Perry Morris Robinson was an American jazz clarinetist and composer. He was the son of composer Earl Robinson.
Dave Burrell is an American jazz pianist. He has played with many jazz musicians including Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown and David Murray.
John Martin Tchicai was a Danish free jazz saxophonist and composer.
William Godvin "Beaver" Harris was an American jazz drummer who worked extensively with Archie Shepp.
Reginald "Reggie" Workman is an American avant-garde jazz and hard bop double bassist, recognized for his work with both John Coltrane and Art Blakey.
Ascension is a jazz album by John Coltrane recorded in 1965 and released in 1966. It is often considered a watershed in Coltrane's work, with the albums recorded before it being more conventional in structure and the albums recorded after it being looser, free jazz inspired works. In addition, it signaled Coltrane's interest in moving away from the quartet format. Coltrane described Ascension in a radio interview as a "big band thing", although it resembles no big band recording made before it. The most obvious antecedent is Ornette Coleman's octet recording, Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, which—like Ascension—is a continuous 40-minute performance with ensemble passages and without breaks. Jazz musician Dave Liebman, commenting on Ascension, recalled that the album was the "torch that lit the free jazz thing". George Russell stated that the recording of Ascension was "when Coltrane turned his back on the money."
The Major Works of John Coltrane is a compilation album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1992 by GRP Records. It features extended compositions, all recorded in 1965 with expanded ensembles, and originally released by Impulse! Records on Ascension, Om, Kulu Sé Mama, and Selflessness: Featuring My Favorite Things. Both editions of Ascension are included.
Attica Blues is an album by avant-garde jazz saxophonist Archie Shepp. Originally released in 1972 on the Impulse! label, the album title is a reference to the Attica Prison riots.
Jeanne Lee was an American jazz singer, poet and composer. Best known for a wide range of vocal styles she mastered, Lee collaborated with numerous distinguished composers and performers who included Gunter Hampel, Andrew Cyrille, Ran Blake, Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron, and many others.
New Thing at Newport is a 1965 live album featuring two separate sets from that year's Newport Jazz Festival by tenor saxophonists John Coltrane and Archie Shepp. It was recorded four days after the recording session for Coltrane's album Ascension, on which Shepp appeared, and is one of several albums documenting the end stages of Coltrane's "classic quartet," which would begin to break up by the end of that year with the departure of McCoy Tyner. Reviewer Tim Niland called the album "an excellent example of the rapidly evolving state of jazz in the mid 1960's by two of its most well known practitioners."
Calvin "Cal" Massey was an American jazz trumpeter and composer.
Steve McCall was an American jazz drummer.
Charles "Majeed" or "Majid" Greenlee was an American jazz trombonist who worked extensively with Archie Shepp.
Four for Trane is a studio album by Archie Shepp released on Impulse! Records in 1964. Four of the five tracks are reworkings of pieces originally recorded on John Coltrane's 1960 Giant Steps and Coltrane Plays the Blues, rearranged by Shepp and Roswell Rudd. Coltrane himself co-produced the album alongside Bob Thiele.
In the late 1960s, Latin jazz, combining rhythms from African and Latin American countries, often played on instruments such as conga, timbale, güiro, and claves, with jazz and classical harmonies played on typical jazz instruments broke through. There are two main varieties: Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the US right after the bebop period, while Brazilian jazz became more popular in the 1960s. Afro-Cuban jazz began as a movement in the mid-1950s as bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor started Afro-Cuban bands influenced by such Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians as Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval. Brazilian jazz such as bossa nova is derived from samba, with influences from jazz and other 20th-century classical and popular music styles. Bossa is generally moderately paced, with melodies sung in Portuguese or English. The style was pioneered by Brazilians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The related term jazz-samba describes an adaptation of bossa nova compositions to the jazz idiom by American performers such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.
My grandfather was a conjurer. He knew about roots and all kinds of medicines, and he never went to school for it. He found everything all on his own. He was a genius.