A rare moment of astonishingly daring ostentation. More of this should & should have happened. It’s got to contend for one of the best on paper line-ups ever – Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille, Bennie Maupin, Jeanne Lee, Chick Corea, Gayle Palmoré, William Green, Larry Curtis, Billy Malone & at the crown of it all – Mr Marion Brown himself. Marion presiding over such a session makes the prospect of those figures even more exciting. This was still very much in the nucleus of Marion’s ultra Avant phase (1970). If you don’t already know of his work during this spectrum, he was one of the wildest cards in the deck, & not due to any obvious or straightforward quality or approach but by much more unique means, principles & potencies.
This album is a very ambitious & risky gambit, so you have to credit ECM for doing it & supporting such a visionary to explore in full with all the necessary auxiliaries to render his ideations a reality (or surreality in this case). It’s just these kind of recordings/assembles, deep in the extreme Avant-Garde that really coax the intrigue levels to delirium pitch & are not regular occurrences (some of the least/most precious actually) in the field. To me also, the album, phenomenal as it is, is not a complete & outright success despite it’s overt brilliance in many quarters.
There are two long tracks – Afternoon Of A Georgia Faun (17.05) & Djinji’s Corner (18.03). my personal preference, & where I feel the most power resides is in the fuscous supernatural theatre piece AOAGF.. it’s a very vivid & descriptive creeper that slowly unfurls, like creatures coming out of a wilderness or otherworldly refuge to cavort as night falls. Some people I know describe this amorphous murk as something akin to a horror movie soundtrack. I would not quite say that myself, but darkness, madness & unheimlich (no doubt quite unnerving for many) menace or wild obscurity are very strong features. This is not screaming banshee-sax downpour, it’s a slow & slithering, ghost infested emergence. The three read-men are on twelve different wind-instruments between them & everybody doubles on some kind of percussion (Bells, gongs, African drums, wood-blocks, running water etc). The haunted forest aesthetic is sometimes briefly compromised by Corea or Braxton, who deem a few straight notes a worthy addition to the witch-craft, to me a real misalliance amongst something so blatantly outermost. The great Jeanne Lee & Gayle Palmore also sometimes seem “a bit too human” amongst the phantoms & spirits, but they also command & contribute some extraordinary performance & provide an indispensable presence & flavour to the ensemble. In fact, some may argue that they are the most disturbing performers present, playing very much with the theme of madness, possession & trance like deranged witches or jabbering gorgons. Both vocalists seem to be the most prolific on the record being active on most the album. Marion himself seems extremely elusive, at least in terms of him performing on saxophone.
Djinji’s Corner brings in the luminary Andrew Cyrille behind the drum kit & Jack Gregg on stand-up bass. This is largely a much more kinetic number. It’s definitely less engrossing than preceding title track but still has some amazing mantics & spectacle.
In some ways, perhaps the scale-grandiloquence ends up subtracting from the overall impact? I feel quite strongly that the album or takes that have been selected & presented here are not the best that the brilliant musicians assembled here could of achieved. Conceptually, it’s absolutely astronomic & there is superb sections as well as all-round excellence, but I don’t feel this is on the scale of Geechee Recollections, an incomparable summit from Marion. More time? More takes? Less musicians? More Marion? It doesn’t really matter, & this is of course, just my personal opinion & perspective. This is a very’ very special album from a very special Avant-Garde musician & his formidable coven. There are not many albums like this (arguably none), it’s a special festivity & a unique sensation. The album I think has, & certainly deserves – cult status. Marion was a real sorcerer & I cannot help but wish more of these ceremonies had commenced during his most experimental & elliptical period because nobody was on this tip.
Label: ECM Records