Marion Brown
Porto Novo
Arista/Freedom : 1967

MB, alto sax; Maarten van Regteren Altena, bass; Han Bennink, drums.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in our two contests last week. There were far fewer correct guesses for this blindfold test than on the previous two, owing in part (we presume) because for the first time we didn’t pick a cover version of a fairly well known tune, and in part (we’re fairly sure) because traffic was kind of light owing to our picking a big vacation week to run a contest.

The song was Marion Brown’s “Improvisation,” from the album above. Congratulations for recognizing the tune and/or the players are due to…

Peter MacDonald, of New Brunswick, Canada
Peter’s most recent concert attended: “Sarah Harmer at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, unless you count my high school garage band’s reunion this summer! Mach V forever!”


Tom Djll, of Santa Cruz, California, USA (who hadn’t heard the album in “probably 20 years”)
Tom’s most recent concert attended: “I think it was Dee Dee Bridgewater at Yoshi’s, about two years ago

As for our contest of pure chance, the numbers we’d selected were 2 and 90. No exact guesses this time, so we flipped a coin to determine whether the 1 or the 3 took the prize — it was 3 — and 91 was closest on the high side. Congratulations to…

Randall Meier, of Toronto, Canada
[Randall guessed 3 on the Three for Shepp tip, going for the Marion Brown connection]
Randall’s most recent concert attended: “Either Cecil Taylor solo or The Ex”


Andy H-D, from whom we await additional details

All lucky winners will receive CD copies of Warren Smith’s Natural/Cultural Forces and Paul Steinbeck’s Sun Set - courtesy of the fine folks at Engine Studios. Thanks, again, to all entrants.

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We’re happy to include two additional tracks from this wonderful trio set. What’s immediately apparent about all three of these cuts is the blazing inventiveness of both Brown and Bennink. (Possibly Altena, too, were he more audible.) Brown brings a crisp intelligence to everything he plays, somehow commenting on what he’s playing as he’s playing it, in a manner not entirely unlike Sonny Rollins. Though he took part in Coltrane’s Ascension, Brown is no fire-breather. The tension of much of his music is generated not by exploding the staff lines, but playing with phrasing, timing, and altering the angle of attack. It’s music unafraid of melody, but not overly hung up on it, either.

Bennink was 25 at the time of this recording; ICP, Machine Gun, Fuck de Boere, Nipples, Globe Unityall were still ahead of him. His propulsive brashness and absurdist streak are in full flower already. His inventive thrashings throughout are like kindling under a burning Brown.

While Bennink’s discography undergoes something of a resurgence, thanks in large part to Atavistic’s Unheard Music Series, Brown’s languishes in a truly sorry state (Impulse, what the hell?). Even the recently reissued ESP debut, a wonderful disc now expanded to four tracks, is currently out of stock at the ESP store. A peek at the discography also reveals how underserved Brown was by the studio system. Porto Novo was seemingly the only official release to emerge from his time in the studio in all of 1967. And the next release comes from work recorded almost a year later. This is a Ted-Williams- war-years level absence.

“When I play my music I’m not playing about anything else at all. I’m not putting down anything that you could express in words. I don’t play about Religion, or the Universe, or Love, or Hate, or Soul. All of that might be there, but not any specific one. You can take it only what you bring to it. I don’t play words.” –Marion Brown (from the Porto Novo liners) (and this from a man who went on to study linguistics)

Brown turns 72 this Saturday, the 8th. We send birthday wishes his way, and encourage all who have enjoyed this taste to make their way toward any of the stunningly few Brown releases available in wide circulation.

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Those seeking more from Brown the composer might also want to stop by Stephen Funk’s place, Exhumed Ephemera, for a generous sampling of Amina Claudia Myers performing some Brown piano compositions.

And, to complete the circle, here’s a swell snapshot of Bennink in blindfold mode.

Category contests, Marion Brown

7 Responses to Newport

  1. I can’t believe I didn’t hear Marion Brown in that blindfold track. I actually have Porto Novo, but haven’t listened to it in a long time. Incidentally, I saw Han Bennink perform in 2004, and he was AWESOME!

  2. i never do these blindfold things, but now i wish i had, as *pn* is one of my favorite albums of all time. i’ve probably listened to it 20 times this year alone. (if my ipod were functional i could give a more exact count.)

    i love bennink’s later work too, but i agree that there is nothing “developmental” about this record. one can only imagine the kind of relationship he would have developed w/ dolphy had ed lived a longer life.

  3. FYI, the “Improvisation” link doesn’t work–I get a not found message.

  4. hi there
    just wanted to pass along that marion brown is alive and well.
    he loves hearing from his fans so if you wanna say hi
    you can call him at this number.
    please call before 6pm eastern time.

    954 926 5600

    john rogers
    new york city

  5. Hi,
    I am a jazz guitarist that worked with Marion Brown in the late 70’s. I recorded with him on his album November Cotton Flower. Can you tell me if Mr. Brown has an email address. I would like to send out a Hello to him.

    Thank You,
    Karl Rausch

  6. Please reup these Marion Brown links. I’ve never heard any of this, and can’t get them in stores. Thanks.

  7. marion brown. a musical genius.
    he truly is sweet earth flying~
    r.i.p. sept. 8, 1931-oct. 18, 2010