02. The Visitor
Marion Brown - alto sax
Grachan Moncur III - trombone
Alan Shorter - trumpet, flugelhorn
Bennie Maupin - tenor sax
Dave Burrell - piano
Reggie Johnson - bass
Beaver Harris - drums
Recorded: November, 1966 New York City
Marion Brown (September 8, 1931 - October 18, 2010) was a jazz alto saxophonist and ethnomusicologist. He is most well-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.
Brown was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1931. He joined the Army in 1953 and in 1956 went to Clark College to study music. In 1960 Brown left Atlanta and studied pre-law at Howard University for two years. He moved to New York in 1962 where he befriended poet Amiri Baraka and many musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders, Paul Bley and Rashied Ali. He appeared on several important albums from this period, such as Shepp's Fire Music and New Wave in Jazz, but most notably John Coltrane's Ascension.
In 1967 Brown traveled to Paris, France, where he developed an interest in architecture, Impressionistic art, african music and the music of Eric Satie. In the late 1960s, he was an American Fellow in Music Composition and Performance at the Cité Internationale Des Artists in Paris. Around 1970, he provided the soundtrack for Marcel Camus' film "Le Temps fou", a soundtrack featuring Steve McCall, Barre Phillips, Ambrose Jackson and Gunter Hampel.
He returned to the US in 1970, where he felt a newfound sense of creative drive. Brown moved to New Haven, Connecticut to serve as a resource teacher in a child study center in the city's public school system until 1971. He composed performed incidental music for a Georg Büchner play Woyzeck. In 1971, Brown was an assistant professor of music at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, a position he held until he attained his Bachelor's degree in 1974. In addition to this role he has held faculty positions at Brandeis University (1971-1974), Colby College (1973-1974), and Amherst College (1974-1975), as well as a graduate assistant position at Wesleyan University (1974-1976). Brown earned a Master's degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan in 1976. His master's thesis was entitled "Faces and Places:
Throughout his many educational positions, Brown continued to compose and perform. 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 the poetry of Jean Toomer in his book Cane. He also transcribed some piano and organ music by Eric Satie, including his Messe Des Pauvres and Pages Mysterieuses, and arranged the composer's Les Fils Des Etoiles for two guitars and violin.
In 1981, Brown began focusing on drawing and painting. His charcoal portrait of blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson was shown in the New York City Kenkeleba Gallery art show called "Jus' Jass", which also includes works by artists such as Romare Bearden, Charles Searles and Joe Overstreet.
Since then, Brown has only recorded occasionally. He has some solo work, as well as recordings with Mal Waldron, Harold Budd, and Wadada Leo Smith. In recent years, Brown has fallen ill; due to a series of surgeries and a partial leg amputation, Brown currently resides in a nursing home in New York. By 2005 he had moved from the nursing home to an assisted living facility in Hollywood, Florida.
Alto saxophonist Marion Brown is an under-sung hero of the jazz avant-garde. Committed to discovering the far-flung reaches of improvisational expression, Brown nonetheless is possessed of a truly lyrical voice but is largely ignored when discussions of free jazz of the '60s and '70s are concerned. Brown came to New York from Atlanta in 1965. His first session was playing on John Coltrane's essential Ascension album. He made two records for the ESP label in 1965 and 1966 — Marion Brown Quartet and Why Not? — and also played on two Bill Dixon soundtracks. It wasn't until his defining Three for Shepp (including Grachan Moncur III and Kenny Burrell) on the Impulse label in 1966 that critics took real notice. This set, lauded as one of the best recordings of that year, opened doors for Brown (temporarily) to tour. He didn't record for another two years because of extensive European engagements, and in 1968 issued Porto Novo (with Leo Smith) on the Black Lion label. In 1970, Brown recorded Afternoon of a Georgia Faun for the ECM label, his second classic. This date featured Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille, Bennie Maupin, Jeanne Lee, and Chick Corea, among others. In 1973, he cut his second Impulse session, Geechee Recollections, with Leo Smith. Brown registered at Wesleyan University in the mid-'70s, studying ethnic instruments and black fife-and-drum corps music and maintained a regular recording schedule. He also recorded with Gunter Hampel in the late '70s and '80s, as well as composer Harold Budd on his Pavilion of Dreams album — issued on Brian Eno's Obscure label — Steve Lacy in 1985, Mal Waldron in 1988, and many others. There are numerous duet and solo recordings that may or may not be sanctioned. Due to health problems, Brown hasn't recorded since 1992.
AMG Review by Brandon Burke
Recorded only a month before his classic Impulse debut, Three for Shepp, this much overlooked session, though quite different, is more than reputable in its own right. The reason for its obscurity is pretty simple. Juba-Lee, as of May 2003, had yet to see formal release anywhere in the world other than its original Dutch pressing and subsequent reissues in Japan. Otherwise, it bears a good deal of resemblance to his Marion Brown Quartet date on ESP, so listeners familiar with that session should know what to expect here. Among other reasons, this is because both sessions share the talents of Alan Shorter and bassist, Reggie Johnson. Also on hand were tenor man Bennie Maupin, pianist Dave Burrell, drummer Beaver Harris, and trombonist Grachan Moncur III. All but Maupin and Shorter would also appear on Three for Shepp. It should go without saying that any free jazz session featuring either Shorter or Moncur is going to be heavy. Both men, as soloists and as composers, tend to dramatically alter any recording upon which they appear. They usually contribute at least one tune to the repertoire — here it's Shorter — and both have a very deliberately paced and immediately recognizable delivery as soloists. Unfortunately, this would be the only session upon which the two appeared together, making the historical relevance of this date even more pronounced. The opening tune is a free-for-all, but the title track is reminiscent of Brown's wonderful "Capricorn Moon," employing a playful and spirited head. Both "The Visitor" and "Iditus" are deep and pensive, very much what one would expect from a session featuring Moncur or Shorter. Highly recommended.
In 1966, producer Alan Bates spearheaded a series of avant-garde jazz releases for the Fontana label (both Dutch and UK imprints), now prized by collectors not only for the fact that they document crucial years in the music (1962-66), but for their beautiful and unique color lithography by Dutch pop artist and lithographer Marte Röling. Röling's covers are fanciful renditions of the artists' heads, filled with whimsical cutaways showing the machinations of the jazzman's mind (Tchicai's, on Mohawk, includes group protests and a saxophone; Marion brown has numerals and valves). The lithographs themselves were culled from photographs of the artists by Guy Kopelowicz, Ray Ross and others. The sessions' origins are quite varied; live concerts make up a few of the dates, others were culled from the artists' own tapes. Two sessions are reissues of material originally released on Riverside in the US (George Russell's The Outer View and Rod Levitt's Dynamic Sound Patterns). Though the original series was short-lived, reissues have been produced in Japan, as well as collected on the Arista-Freedom and Black Lion labels - albeit with different cover art.
An exploration of the free jazz idiom, at times a bit further out than Three for Shepp, but nowhere near as cerebral. The presence of Grachan Moncur, Bennie Maupin, Alan Shorter and Beaver Harris is felt strongly as each of these men manages to contribute their idiom to this session, infusing a sense of variety and openness rarely found in a session like this.
The musicians mostly honk their way through the wild, uninhibited first track, but the apparently loose structure soon enough ties itself into a tight knit. Shorter's wonderful "Iditus" is the high point here, a great, very atmospheric piece with a beautiful solos by Moncur and Burrell.