Alto saxophonist Marion Brown
was part of the band on John Coltrane
(Impulse, 1965), though you would not guess it from Why Not
(ESP, 1968). Like fellow Ascension
alumnus, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders
' contemporaneous Tauhid
(Impulse, 1967), Brown's album inhabited an intensely melodic section of the 1960s' New Thing.
As were Sanders' own-name releases from 1967 onwards, Brown's work was deeply lyrical and embraced South Asian, Maghrebi and West African instruments and constructs. As bandleaders, the two players operated at the far end of the New Thing spectrum to the so-called "energy" saxophonists who followed, lamely, in Albert Ayler
's wake. Why Not
was recorded in late October 1966, Tauhid
just three weeks later. Their points of contact are particularly marked on the opening tracks. Brown's "La Sorella" and Sanders' "Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt" employ similar arrangements and both project uplifting, mellifluous vibes, roughed up around the edges with vocalized tones and broken notes. Both are bedded on quietly insistent grooves. Brown's pianist Stanley Cowell
and Sanders' pianist Dave Burrell
essay slightly trippy intros before the leaders take things out.
This reissue of Why Not
in ezz-thetics' Revisited series is coupled with Porto Novo
(Polydor, 1969), which Brown recorded in The Netherlands with Dutch bassist Maarten Van Regeteren Altena and drummer Han Bennink
. That album is pretty much as sublime as Why Not
and the pairing is testament to ezz-thetics' founder Werner X. Uehlinger's curatorial touch. Another harmonious pairing is Brown's Capricorn Moon To Juba Lee Revisited
(ezz-thetics, 2019), which packages all but four minutes of Marion Brown Quartet
(ESP, 1966), made with a pianoless quartet including trumpeter Alan Shorter
, with side two of the septet album Juba-Lee
(Fontana, 1967), made with Shorter, trombonist Grachan Moncur III
and tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin
(the pianist is Dave Burrell from the aforementioned Tauhid
Both Revisited albums have been sensitively remastered. As many of us have learnt to our cost, a remaster may not always be an improvement on the original edition. Rudy Van Gelder
's digital-age remasters of his work for Prestige and Blue Note demonstrate the extent to which a gifted engineer can enhance audio quality. Peter Pfister's ezz-thetics remasters are of the same order of efficacy. The Revisited series is solid gold; avant-garde treasures from the 1960s are in safe hands.
La Sorella; Fortunato; Why Not; Homecoming; Similar Limits; Sound Structure; Improvisation;
QBIC; Porto Novo.
Marion Brown: alto saxophone;
Stanley Cowell: piano (1-4);
Norris “Sirone” Jones: double bass (1-4);
Maarten Van Regteren Altena: double bass (5-9);
Rashied Ali: drums (1-4);
Han Bennink: drums (5-9).