I Heard This: Marion Brown Quartet


I spent most of last week in Port Townsend (or, as Seely dubbed it "Pete" Townsend). I had no idea the town was home to Quimper Records, the oldest indie record store in Washington State.

I found a 180 gram vinyl copy of the Marion Brown Quartet's ESP debut. Brown is one of those sadly overlooked geniuses of the 60s avant garde jazz scene (or, the "New Thing", if you will). Like most people, I was familiar with Brown only because he blew alto for Coltrane on Ascension.

But this debut proves he had far more to say. The lithe, melodic, 22-minute opener "Capricorn Moon" is the real stunner here, simply because it sounds like nothing else and is really uncharacteristic of most 60 avant garde jazz. Not only is Brown's playing lean and lyrical, but Rasheid Ali's percussion work is laid-back and mystical...a very strange but alluring piece of music pretty much void of all meaty blowing and skronking. Not since I first heard Coltrane's "Out of this World" has a jazz workout put its hooks into me the way "Capricorn Moon" did. So much so that when the 22-minutes were up, I didn't flip to Side B. Instead, I lifted the needle, led it back to the beginning, and listened all over again.

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