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Rob Brown: No More "Mr. Avant Garde"

By Published: August 25, 2008

AAJ: Is there a Catch-22 there, where you need work to pay an agent to find you work?

RB: Well, that's OK. Usually an agent will work for a commission. If you do it by commission, then they have a reason to do it rather than just collect a pay check. So that's the way it usually works. But right now I don't have anyone booking the gigs for me. That's what I need the most. Because then it's a lot easier for me to get the musical projects played. I don't play with people that don't want to play with me, but people are busy and people need to make a living. It's not that easy to get people together to rehearse, and to just work on music in an abstract way. I certainly did that much more when I was younger, and that's what most people probably do, but when you get older people just don't have that kind of time anymore. They want stability in their lives. If the gigs come in, then I could do all kinds of projects.

I do hope to do some more collaborating too, music with other things. My wife and I will maybe do more of that. I'm going to Germany in the winter and we'll be doing something there. We'll probably have a dancer involved too. Those kinds of things are fun to do. A lot of times when I do that I play solo. It's certainly easier logistically, and it makes those kind of things possible, because if we're going to Europe and my wife has a visual art installation going on, and we have a dancer, for me it's so much easier to work with that than to try to have a band. Since it's a collaboration it's not just about me, it's about the music and solo saxophone can work for a lot of things. I would like to do another solo record, because the one that I have out [Silver Sun Afternoon (Self Produced, 2002)] was a hastily put together affair.

Rob BrownAAJ: When was that recorded?

RB: About six years ago or something like that, but it was just done on a lower quality machine, and it's just a CDR. I'm not putting it down, but I'm just saying that I'd like to go in a studio and have a little more time. Beyond that there are a bunch of projects, but until I have more offers about how to do them, I'm not putting that much energy into thinking about them. I have general ideas for things. If I get a call or apply for a grant which allows me to do a more extensive type of piece, then I have to focus on it and figure it out. But before that time they are (just) concepts that I may have catalogued somewhere, but they are not expounded on at all.

AAJ So you're not into the Anthony Braxton way of doing things, where you are writing your operas without any expectation that they will ever be performed?

RB: Well, it's funny, because I remember when I was pretty young reading about (him) talking about orchestras, then orchestras in different cities, then orchestras on different planets—well you know he's got a creative mind and he thinks that way. I don't really think that way. I guess I'm a little more pragmatic [laughs]. But that's what makes him great. That's what makes him Anthony Braxton.

AAJ: You work a lot with William Parker in his Quartet, his Raining on the Moon Quintet and his Sextet. Does that help you do your own work as well?

RB: It helps people know who I am, but it's not like a magic pass into anything. It keeps me working and I love working with William so it's great and I'm really happy doing this. Of course, I would like to be doing my own projects much more than I am. There's plenty of time, because I can be doing William's band and my band. William's band is not working as much as it could be working. We have small periods of activity and then there are two months when we don't have any work and it really shouldn't be that way. I feel that the band is popular enough: everywhere we go it's sold out and people love it. That band should be working a lot more and from that perspective it's just a matter of whoever is in charge setting those things up. So we'll see what happens.

Selected Discography

William Parker, Double Moon Over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
Rob Brown Ensemble Crown Trunk Root Funk (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
Rob Brown/Andrew Barker, Live From The Empty Bottle (Ruby Red, 2008)
Right Hemisphere, Right Hemisphere (RogueArt, 2008)
Rob Brown Trio, Sounds (Cleanfeed, 2007)
William Parker Double Quartet, Alphaville Suite (RogueArt, 2007)
William Parker/Raining on The Moon, Cornmeal Dance (AUM Fidelity, 2007)
The Diplomats, We Are Not Obstinate Islands (Cleanfeed, 2006)
Rob Brown Quartet, Radiant Pools (RogueArt, 2005)
Whit Dickey Quintet, In A Heartbeat (Cleanfeed, 2005)
William Parker Quartet, Sound Unity (AUM Fidelity, 2005)
Rob Brown Quartet, The Big Picture (Marge, 2004)
Whit Dickey Quartet, Coalescence (Cleanfeed, 2004)
Rob Brown, Silver Sun Afternoon (NoLabels, 2002)
Rob Brown Trio, Round the Bend (Bleu Regard, 2002)
William Parker Quartet, O'Neal's Porch (AUM Fidelity, 2002)
William Parker, Raining On The Moon (Thirsty Ear, 2002)
William Parker and Little Huey, Raincoat in the River (Eremite, 2002)
Rob Brown Quartet, Jumping Off the Page (No More, 2000)
Rob Brown Trio, Visage (Marge, 1999)
Anthony Braxton, 4 Compositions (Washington DC) (Braxton House, 1999)
In Order to Survive, The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity, 1998)
Rob Brown/Matthew Shipp, Blink of an Eye (No More, 1997)
Rob Brown-Lou Grassi Quartet, Scratching the Surface (CIMP, 1997)
Anthony Braxton, Trillium R (Braxton House, 1996)

Photo Credits
Juan-Carlos Hernandez

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