Marshall Brown

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The early-'60s team of Marshall Brown (a highly disciplined and organized teacher) and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell (a very spontaneous alcoholic) was definitely an odd coupling, yet during its brief existence,…
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The early-'60s team of Marshall Brown (a highly disciplined and organized teacher) and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell (a very spontaneous alcoholic) was definitely an odd coupling, yet during its brief existence, it was mutually beneficial. Russell was encouraged to play very modern pieces (including some by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman) and was well showcased in Brown's arrangements; it was the valve trombonist who received more publicity than he ever had during his career. Brown was largely self-taught although he eventually gained a music degree from New York University in 1949. He was a high school band director in New York for the next eight years, and his school orchestra performed quite successfully at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, gaining him some recognition. Brown visited Europe with George Wein in order to pick promising musicians for the International Youth Band, which played at the Brussels World's Fair and at Newport the following year. He also had the opportunity to form the Newport Youth Band, which performed at Newport in 1959 and 1960. Among the then-unknown musicians in his youth groups were Albert Mangelsdorff, George Gruntz, Gabor Szabo, Eddie Gomez, Jimmy Owens, and Dusko Goykovic. Brown, a flexible valve trombonist who could play effectively in cool, bop, and Dixieland settings, performed mainstream jazz with Ruby Braff (1960-1961); inspired Pee Wee Russell (until eventually their personalities clashed) on and off during 1961-1965, and played with Bobby Hackett and Lee Konitz. Marshall Brown -- who never led his own record dates but did record with his Newport bands, Braff, and Russell -- stayed active as a teacher throughout his life.