Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Marion Brown - Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2019)

Alto saxophonist and composer Marion Brown was coming into his own in the mid 1960's when these invigorating tracks were recorded. He played as a sideman in critical albums like John Coltrane's Ascension and Archie Shepp's Fire Music, and had recorded as a leader for Impulse! and ESP. Meeting a fellow traveler in trumpeter Alan Shorter, brother of Wayne, Brown made thinking man's free jazz, imbued with his interest in art, philosophy and architecture. The first two tracks, from November 1965 have Brown with Shorter on trumpet, Reggie Johnson and Ronnie Boykins on bass (first track only,) and Rashied Ali on drums. “Capricorn Moon” opens the album with excellent rhythm from the two basses and percussion which give the music extra drive, perfect for Brown, whose saxophone sounds tart, bright and alive. He mixes long tones and flurries of notes with the churning rhythm creating a supple improvised performance. The trumpet's soloing is strong and cogent over the hypnotic bass and drums, projecting a strong deep tone played with great control. The basses are featured in solo and duo adding some excellent bowing, leading to a storming drum solo and the return of the theme for full band that gradually fades out. Fast bass and drums urge on the horns during “Mephistopheles” with the band sounding a little more harsh, and Brown developing a more shrill tone at times. The rhythm team is pushing the tempo hard and the horns respond well, building a massive rolling improvised section. Shorter takes the lead, with more edge to his sound than the prior track, playing long stark sounds that come off as advanced hard bop rather than free, but works well nonetheless. An impressive bowed bass section for Johnson leads to a pummeling drum solo, and a brief restatement of the theme before a squalling end. The final two tracks, from November 1966, have a larger group of Brown with Shorter on trumpet, Grachan Moncur III on trombone, Bennie Maupin on tenor saxophone, Dave Burrell on piano, Reggie Johnson on bass and Beaver Harris on drums. “Juba Lee” has a pretty, song like introduction for the full band at a medium up tempo featuring thoughtful trumpet and and drums. Shorter's trumpet sounds sunny and bright, calling out for Brown's saxophone to join in on the fun. The group collaborates well, with nobody forcing the action, when the saxophones join up with the brass the music becomes much freer, engaging with the bass and drums allowing a bass solo to bounce everyone back to the theme. The final track is “Itidus” which is slower and slightly ominous, with the horn section developing extremely loud or powerful in their sound, long tones willowy and withering evoking stark emotions of sad longing. The brass keeps the low flame alight with subtle drums underneath, and the energy seems subdued as space opens up for piano with light bass and drums leading back to the heavy and imposing theme. This was an excellent disc, reminding up what a protean force Marion Brown was in the music. A quiet, thoughtful man, perhaps he never got the due of some of the other musicians of the period, but he left a significant legacy that starts with these recordings. Don't miss the wonderful Instagram account carried out by the Brown family as well. Capricorn Moon To Juba Lee: Revisited - amazon.com

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