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Marion Brown Quartet: Why Not?

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Originally released in 1968, Why Not? is one of three ESP-Disk’ recordings on which alto-sax player Marion Brown appears. His first for ESP was recorded in 1965, the same year he worked with John Coltrane on Ascension. With the late bassist Norris “Sirone” Jones, pianist Stanley Cowell, and the late drummer Rashied Ali, Brown creates music that juxtaposes elegant fluidity with a determined starkness.

Starting with “La Sorrella,” Brown floods his alto with a pure tonality that pervades the melodics of the remaining music. The piano sounds harp-like as it progresses in and out of chordal arrays; Sirone’s pizzicatos are soft, climbing and repetitive; and Ali maintains a predominately cymbal-ticking pulse.

The ballad, “Fortunato,” features a glowing interlude from the piano that weaves webs of heavenly phrasing, as Ali brushes and accents the skins in the background. The alto sings beautifully, seeming out of context with vanguard jazz; but given the recording date of the album, this music can now be understood as predicting a timeless future.

The last half of the record takes off in quick tempos. Brown energizes the title track with arpeggios that stay in mid-register, but launch easily into the high. Sirone moves through fast-paced pizzicatos; Ali demonstrates his smart stick work within a channel of exploration. A drum roll begins the last track, “Homecoming,” with a strangely slow entrance to the alto’s repeated pronouncement of a march-like theme. The group pursues that theme in multiple directions; the piano, at first, engaging the keyboard in incessant chord phrasings, some bordering on stride. The alto’s trumpet-like, staccato playing hints once at the tune, “Three Blind Mice.” Ali drives the drum set with a continuous variegated sound to usher in the reprise of the theme. The quartet closes with one swift tight swipe at brightness.

Originally Published