Known for his association with Archie Shepp, Amiri Baraka, Ornette Coleman and other bright lights of the 60s avant garde jazz community, Marion Brown died on Monday, October 18, in Hollywood, Florida. He was 79. Brown had been ill for many years and had not performed publicly in a long time. Brown recorded over a dozen albums as a leader for Impulse!, ESP, Black Lion and ECM, but is perhaps best known for his appearance as a sideman on two seminal records of the ‘60s: John Coltrane’s Ascension and Archie Shepp’s Fire Music.
Brown was born in the Atlanta area. He left high school in the 10th grade and enlisted in the Army, where he quickly became a member of the Army band and was stationed for 18 months at Hokkaido, an obscure island of Japan. After he returned home to Atlanta, Brown enrolled at Clark College to major in music education. He went on to study at Howard University in Washington, DC and it was there that he became immersed in the new music played by artists such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Amiri Baraka, Archie Shepp and others. Within a few years, several of these artists would become mentors or associates of Brown. Disenchanted with his academics at Howard, Brown moved to New York in order to play this new music professionally.
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