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Marion Brown

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Sigh... Very sad news indeed. I never had the chance to hear him play in performance, but he is one of the very few artists whom I have been absolutely fanatical about attempting to collect everything he recorded. What a unique voice he was! Thank you, Marion Brown, for all of the beautiful music over the years.

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you know, I was thinking recently how it might be nice to do a real study of '60s Free Jazz, and Brown epitomizes, to me, that music's ups and downs (to steal that Bud Powell title). When he was good he was great, but he's the classic example of no second act in certain creative lives. I love the interview, Cliff.

Interesting thought. So many peaks and troughs and hands in all manner of important things (Ascension, Archie's band, ESP-disk, the French and German scenes, interactions with the early AACM/very prescient soundscape/ethno collages, Wesleyan teaching, improv/contemporary music interactions with Elliott Schwartz and Harold Budd...) He also fell into the maybe inevitable post-bop reversion that happened to some of the best free players (though I think he did it with a poise and dignity that can't be reserved for some of his peers). When he was finished playing, he was more or less finished playing. I do think that the spottiness of his catalog is a testament to what is maybe (in hindsight) the most appealing feature of early American free jazz for me, which is a definite sense of "working things out"/apparent difficulties reconciling the urge to freedom with an unwillingness to eschew very overt idiomatic conceits.

I was driving to LA for a show last night, and I was bored to death by everything except for "Music from Big Pink" and "Three for Shepp." A weird combo, but it's telling that both albums tap into this seemingly 60's zeitgeist-y thing about working questions of genre out before anyone can tell you exactly what kind of music you're playing. "Three for Shepp" is for me the best of the his albums in this vein (I may like "Sweet Earth Flying," "Afternoon of a Georgia Faun," and maybe one of the Caligs as much or better), mainly because it's both so clearly "60's FREE JAZZ" (caps) and present in this very liminal idiomatic space (the first track is named "New Blue," for heaven's sake--and totally unironic, in contrast to similar reclamations of material on the part of the near-contemporaneous Europeans). There's some cheeky stride/showtune type stuff, a Rollins-esque calypso, a free ballad that teeters on the brink of the Blue Note school of grainy pastoralism... it's an album that I'd think you'd be proud to make decades after the fact--it still sounds fresh and s**ts on completely nothing.

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I have a vague memory of seeing him play solo at A Space in Toronto sometimes in the '70s.

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Eddy Gaumont was free and so out that I have no idea what became of him. A most promising drummer who bypassed the reputation that would have been coming to him.

He was Dominique Gaumont's brother. The guitar-playing Dominique who was hired by Miles Davis!

Then who was playing drums in Lugano 1967?

the duo recording with mal is one of the most intimate and expressive recordings i have. among others, i escpecially love the beautiful solo extended standards of the 'recollections'.

Could it be Favre? Sounds and sort of looks like him.

I could swear the Gaumont I heard was far from "free jazz."

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I could swear the Gaumont I heard was far from "free jazz."

He is far from conventional on his only recorded appearance (Barney Wilen's Auto Jazz)!

I heard him several times with Marion Brown and was impressed by his out playing!

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re-above, there was a Euro LP in which he tried to play at least a standard or two (I remember Body and Soul) but the results were not good.

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Marion Brown plays Body and Soul on that album I was listening to earlier today.

marion_brown.jpg

Not bad at all!

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on a different tack, I'd be interested to know what folks make of Brown's album Vista on Impluse? any thoughts on how sucessfully the apparent 'soul' elements are integrated?

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Vista is one of my favorites - sprung for the Japanese CD - and I've always thought it was maybe the most successful attempt by Impulse to put one of their "new thing" artists in a pop/soul/rock setting. Hardly typical of Brown, of course, he's almost on the sideline there.

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on the Body and Soul version that I remember, he just keeps repeating the same phrase. A lot of "outside" players just were not that good on changes.

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on the Body and Soul version that I remember, he just keeps repeating the same phrase. A lot of "outside" players just were not that good on changes.

I would respectfully disagree here. Some of the performances on - for instance - Songs of Love and Regret with Mal Waldron I find quite compelling, "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" in particular.

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Allen: I'm almost certain that I remember seeing him in New Haven at a concert with Leo Smith in 1972 or 1973.

you know, I was thinking recently how it might be nice to do a real study of '60s Free Jazz, and Brown epitomizes, to me, that music's ups and downs (to steal that Bud Powell title). When he was good he was great, but he's the classic example of no second act in certain creative lives. I love the interview, Cliff.

funny thing is, I forgot that Brown used to pass through New Haven, probably in the late '80s or early '90s, and one night he called me wanting to know about gigs in town.

nice guy.

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on a different tack, I'd be interested to know what folks make of Brown's album Vista on Impluse? any thoughts on how sucessfully the apparent 'soul' elements are integrated?

I like Vista, and don't really hear it as a "soul" album, even though there's a Stevie Wonder tune on it. It's neither as challenging or rewarding as his other Impulse albums, but it's good. And I like the Atlanta connections - there are several Atlanta musicians present. The vocalist on the Stevie Wonder tune, Allen Murphy, is a much-beloved drummer/singer here - still playing at age 72.

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Yes, Vista is good. I think I got it for a buck, and that seemed like a fine deal considering the music.

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Brown was at least an interesting standards player, although I don't ever think I'd find his changes playing as coherent or even as melodically lucid as his playing in freer terrain or modal territory. I think part of the problem may have been the incidental nature of most of his rhythm sections--star-studded things that may have lacked the finesse of either consistency or a unifying, clear musical concept (the latter of which was more of Brown's issue as a leader in later years). The quartet with Brandon Ross, November Cotton Flower, Soul Eyes--I have to confess that I tune out almost everything that isn't happening during Marion's solos, which may have lost their direction now and again but not their lyricism or quirky tenacity.

Vista is kind of like a more jazz-oriented version of The Pavillion of Dreams--extraordinarily subdued, groove-oriented, harmonically resonant, and light on blowing (or rather with light blowing)--sounding for all the world like a middleweight Strata East album. I think that Brown's dry tone might sit better with a more muscly rhythmic concept, but I have a hard time hating any of this stuff.

Sometimes the diversity of Brown's albums comes across as genuine aesthetic catholicism (everything up to the like the late 70's), sometimes (or really just later on) a lack of artistic identity. Anyway, his most remarkable album outside of a more traditional free 60's vein (for me)--Afternoon of a Georgian Faun--is almost totally unprecedented in the afrocentric continuum--even more minimal than Muhal's or Braxton's early music (which is pretty remarkable). The lack of unfiltered free blowing on the first track almost suggests AMM egoless-ness, but it's warm and personally aware in a way that the AMM guys wouldn't touch with a pole. Stuff like the pseudo-Coltrane blowing on Sweet Earth Flying is very derivative but somehow comes out sounding like a unique mix (I chalk this up to sheer bottom-heaviness, skewed against a very light horn sound--which is something maybe specific to Brown's later Impulse music). The freer sounding music on the Calig albums arrives at a nice middle ground between an AACM group concept and total free blowing. On the other hand, Geechee Recollections--which is a solid listen, sounds a bit too much like makeweight Art Ensemble concept at times... maybe a little too much reflexivity.

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Amazing indeed! Thanks a lot!

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Very moving to revisit Marion Brown back in 1966 just before he moved to Paris!

What a beautiful soul he had.

I miss him...

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Thanks, Clifford! That's amazing.

Yes!!!

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Thanks for posting, Clifford. Great film

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Great clip Clifford! Cool to see Roscoe Mitchell's Sound in his record collection.

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