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Why Not? by Marion Brown

This reissue of saxophonist and ethnomusicologist Marion Brown’s 1968 quartet date, and second outing for ESP, highlights his unique fusion of cutting-edge avant-improv with sonorous melodies and yeaning lines. In a sense, Brown bridged the best of many musical worlds. And he recorded with John Coltrane on the classic 1965 album Ascension, amid affiliations with fellow avant saxophonist Archie Shepp and other artists of note. Brown became one of the premier 1960’s era avant-garde musicians, yet didn’t receive the glory or notoriety enjoyed by many of his peers.

Brown and his quartet inject blustery undercurrents into an expansive musical plane on this superb date that ages like the proverbial fine wine. Part of the album’s success lies within the saxophonist’s melodically tinged mode of soaring into an abyss of spiritual fulfillment. Brown sustains memorably melodic primary themes via soaring and climactically devised phraseologies atop his eminent rhythm section’s ascending currents. Recently departed drummer Rashied Ali is a polyrhythmic fury while Morris "Sirone" Jones’ linear bottom-end, excels with beefy underpinnings. Moreover, pianist Stanley Cowell executes an excitable muse during the scrappy, free-form piece titled "Why Not?" Here, the band transmits a fabric of sound that transforms wildly expressionistic forays into a substantive viewpoint.

The fourth and final track "Homecoming," features Ali’s military band style press rolls to complement the stop/start motif and the musicians deft use of space as a metric. Marked by a bright and jubilant motif, Brown pronounces a warm welcome then denigrates matters into an improvisational foray that intimates confusion or disarray. Nonetheless, lucid imagery might parallel the indecencies and scorn inflected upon Vietnam vets coming home after a tour of duty, especially given the 1968 timeframe. Then Cowell tosses a curve by venturing into stride piano territory, where Brown revisits the opening melody for the coda. Simply stated, this 2009 reissue should be deemed essential listening. Brown strikes an everlasting chord on this somewhat under-recognized masterpiece.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Marion Brown
  • CD Title: Why Not?
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Reissue Original Release: 1968
  • Record Label: ESP-DISK
  • Musicians: Marion Brown (alto sax), Stanley Cowell (piano), Norris Sirone Jones (bass), Rashied Ali (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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