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Album Review

Difficult as it may be for younger listeners to believe, there was a time when ECM released adventurous improvised music. Back near its inception in the early '70s, the label issued a wide variety and decent number of challenging avant-garde recordings that represented some of the most forward-looking musical thinkers of the time. One of these was Marion Brown, who, at the time of this session, was about midway between his extreme post- Coltrane explorations and the luscious, down-home evocations of Georgia that he would create for Impulse! over the next few years. He gathered 11 musicians, including a couple from the then current Miles Davis Bitches Brew band (Chick Corea and Bennie Maupin), the then little-known Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille, and the late great vocalist Jeanne Lee for two side-long, wide-ranging pieces. The first, the title track, is a wonderful, percussive evocation of pastoral Georgia, something along the lines of what the Art Ensemble of Chicago were doing around the same time, but without the satire and with a greater sense of serenity. As the flutes, reeds, voice, and piano enter, there is no idea of "soloing"; instead, each contributes to the ongoing, evolving texture of the piece, creating a fabric that's as cohesive as it is unplanned. The remaining cut, "Djinji's Corner," is a bit more fleshed out, a little more "traditional" in one way, though still quite unusual for the time. Again, a reference point might be Art Ensemble works from around the same time, here a mélange of free horns and intense percussion, with Jeanne Lee soaring over the top, mixing words and glossolalia, similar to her stellar work on Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill. The effect is more eerie and spiritually infused than the preceding piece, with keening, bowed cymbals and deep pulses from the lower clarinet family. It gradually builds to something of a frenzy, but in an unforced manner that shows it to be merely another approach to the territory explored earlier. Afternoon of a Georgia Faun is a lovely, inspired album, a key work in Marion Brown's oeuvre and a recording that belongs in any collection of contemporary jazz.

Biography

Born: 10 November 1939 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Andrew Cyrille is perhaps the preeminent free-jazz percussionist of the 1980s and '90s. Few free-jazz drummers play with a tenth of Cyrille's grace and authority. His energy is unflagging, his power absolute, tempered only by an ever-present sense of propriety. Cyrille is at his best in an utterly free context, as on his encounters with the ambidextrous pianist Borah Bergman, where his serrated rhythms and variable textures are given maximum latitude. Cyrille began playing drums in a drum and bugle...
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Afternoon of a Georgia Faun, Andrew Cyrille
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