Alto saxophonist Marion Brown, a leading jazz avant gardist and music educator, died Oct. 18 in Hollywood, Fla. He was believed to be 79, though some sources list his age as 75.
Brown had been in ill health for many years after multiple surgeries and the partial amputation of a leg, and was in an assisted living facility at his death, according to the website of instrument maker Gibson.
Brown had considered a law career before he moved to New York in 1962 and began playing professionally. He was befriended by playwright and jazz observer LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), who wrote about him favorably, and became a key player of the new jazz. In 1965, he made key appearances as a sideman on John Coltrane’s “Ascension” and Archie Shepp’s “Fire Music,” both acknowledged free jazz landmarks.
Beginning with LPs for the experimental ESP-Jazz label in the late ’60s, Brown worked as a leader through the early ’90s. His best-known albums included “Afternoon of a Georgia Faun” (ECM, 1970) and “Geechee Recollections” (Impulse, 1973).
He taught at such universities as Brandeis and Amherst during the ’70s, and earned a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan. In later years, he developed a parallel career as a graphic artist.