Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Marion Brown's "Why Not?" Reissued

Marion Brown has not exactly been forgotten in the last 10 years or so, but neither has he been given a great deal of attention as one of the more important alto sax stylists in the "new thing" era of improvisatory music. So when his ESP album Why Not? is again available in a careful reissue with a restoration of the original pristine sound, it is a good opportunity for more listeners to get to know him.

Why Not? belongs in the handful of his very best recordings. It was his second for the label and, along with Three for Shepp (Impulse), reflects a heightened burst of creativity following upon his appearance on John Coltrane's seminal Ascension.

In fact Why Not? reflects the later Coltrane influence in a number of ways. First off in Marion's choice of sidemen: the explosively free drummer Rashied Ali, a member of Trane's last group, pianist Stanley Cowell, who sounds like nobody else but functions in the free-flowing manner of McCoy Tyner's last work with Trane as well as Alice Coltrane's style in those days--rubato, loosely building cascades of notes and chords. Sirone on bass doesn't sound like Jimmy Garrison, but he functions as a punctuator here much as Jimmy did in the later Trane configuration.

The tunes are effective vehicles for the band and often reflect a modal, pedal-based Trane-derived style.

Marion's playing is lyrically rhapsodic as Coltrane's playing certainly was in later years. But all similarity ends there. This is creative, original, vital free music and Marion shows he was no imitator. Stanley Cowell sounds as inspired as he ever did. And the rhythm section jabs, punches, feints and dances with perfectly calculated abandon.

If you want to know why you need to appreciate the contributions of Mr. Brown and his music, this is essential listening.


  1. This seems like something I should listen to. Thanks for your postings. I've been reading your blogs and they keep me thinking!

  2. Thanks Bingo for your comment here and on the Guitar and Bass Blog. Your appreciation is appreciated. I hope the New Year brings you all good things!