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A Fireside Chat with Marion Brown

By Published: April 11, 2003
AAJ: Compared to the ESP dates, Three for Shepp, and Porto Nova, Afternoon of a Georgia Faun set in motion the inclusion of African rhythms and motifs in your music.

MB: It is the performance of it because African music has as performers, not only the performers, but the audience and listeners as well.

AAJ: An example of that would be the Art Ensemble.

MB: Yes. I did that with Leo Smith. He stayed in Connecticut when I was up there teaching. He needed a place to stay and I had a house, so I let him stay with me. We became friends and musical partners back then. I was teaching in elementary schools. I was teaching children how to make instruments and create their own music.

AAJ: What were some instruments you developed?

MB: I made mostly percussion instruments and I made some flutes from bamboo. I played them with Leo Smith and for ECM on Afternoon of a Georgia Faun.

AAJ: Let's touch on your collaboration with Gunter Hampel, whom you worked with for almost twenty-five years.

MB: I met him the first time in Belgium, Liege. We became friends and worked together and as a matter of fact, him and I played here at this place last month.

AAJ: As educated as you are, music is one of many options you could have taken, any regrets?

MB: No regrets and I still don't because I'm a very well known musician and I met a lot of people. As a matter of fact, Fred, last year, I met Sonny Rollins, who is one of the most beautiful people that I've met in my whole life. Not only is he a musical genius, but he's a human genius. I would love to record with him.

AAJ: Your health has been a concern, how are you holding up?

MB: I'm fine now, but for the last six years, I've been through some serious health problems. I had brain surgery. I had laser eye surgery, all of my teeth removed, and the last thing was that my left foot was amputated, so I have to walk now with a prosthetics. It has been a challenge. That is what they taught me to do at this place.

AAJ: How long of a period passed before you were able to comfortably walk?

MB: Twelve weeks. It puts life in a perspective, but the perspective is more beautiful before these things happened because I've learned to appreciate God more.

AAJ: Any memories stand out?

MB: Philly Joe Jones. He was an incredible drummer and a very incredible person. It was the night that I recorded with him first. I went into the studio and he was setting up his drums. So I walked over to him and said, "Hey, Joe, how you doing?" And he said, "Fine, Marion." I said, "What are you going to do for me tonight?" And then he smiled and said, "I'm going to fry your little ass." (Laughing) And he did. Yes, he did because the man could play four, five rhythms all at the same time, different ones and have them all clicking on the one. I played better than I had ever played before because he spun a carpet under me. All I had to do was ride it.

AAJ: And the future?

MB: I recorded last year with a singer and that's about it. There is a new record out in Germany that I'm on.

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