Man v. Machine

Marion Brown/Elliott Schwartz
Century : 1973

MB, alto sax, clarinet, piano, percussion, little instruments; ES, Arp synthesizer, piano, percussion, little instruments.

In this corner! A saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist weighing in at trim 150 pounds, featuring a tone that can slice through tin can lids, and a lyricism that can make grown men weep like willows…wearing the withering stare…Marion Brown!

And in the far corner! A New England professor armed with an old school synthesizer and who knows what else…wearing the hornrims, attenuators, and bolts of tweed…Elliott Schwartz and his ARP!

From this rare album — recorded live at Bowdoin College in 1973, where Schwartz was then teaching — here is the first ten minutes of side two. The whole album is one continuous, near-forty minute performance, later repackaged as part of Duets on Arista/Freedom. Exploratory in tone, it showcases Brown’s ability to maintain his innate melodicism regardless of whatever is thrown at him by Schwartz. Not to mention Brown’s facility on a range of instruments.

Parts of this piece are reminiscent of Human Music, Don Cherry’s 1970 computer-jazz collision with Jon Appleton. Soundways, though, is far less academic (despite the setting) and more exciting than its predecessor. It combines the playful, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vibe of early Art Ensemble, with the probing sonic experimentalism of Anthony Braxton’s duets with Richard Teitelbaum. A bit of an outlier in the Marion Brown discography, but a fascinating one — and a little Marion Brown is always worth exploring. That Schwartz was just awarded an honorary degree while Brown is seldom celebrated, and large chunks of his oeuvre languish, inaccessible, is a dichotomy we’ll leave for others to examine further.

What are your favorite computer music collisions? Jazz or otherwise.

Category Elliott Schwartz, Marion Brown Tags , , , , ,