BOYCE BROWN, METAPHYSICIAN

Dave Dexter, Jr., wrote in THE JAZZ STORY (1964):

The morning after my first interview with Brown, in 1939 in Chicago, his father arrived at Down Beat‘s old Dearborn Street offices with a glossy 8 x 10 photograph of an alto saxophone, lying in its case without a mouthpiece and flanked on both sides by lighted candles.  Boyce had typed on the attractive folder in which the macabre photograph was mounted:

AGNES                         LYING IN STATE                         1928-1939

And on the inside of the folder to the left, he had pasted this mimeographed requiem and signed it with his first name only:

HER VOICE now is mute. 

While life was breathed into Her, She revealed to me in audible measures many of my faults, and delicately intimate moods found expression through Her being;

Though She was wholly mine, I was never Her master — quite.  Having fully enjoyed the completeness of her unquestioning service, it is with no great sense of sorrow that I lay Her away;

As into the beautiful silence that precedes the touch of the Great Master.

(In Dexter’s interview, Boyce told him of his disappointment with his playing on an unreleased 1935 Charles LaVere session: “They were not good performances.  I failed to communicate with Agnes, but it was my fault, not hers.”)

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9 responses to “BOYCE BROWN, METAPHYSICIAN

  1. Boyce Brown can be seen in the 1932 Vitaphone short Benny Meroff and his Orchestra in “It’s A Panic” Brown is seated in the reed section, top row, far left.

    Mark Cantor

  2. Mark, nothing gets past you! I don’t find that Vitaphone short in the open marketplace of YouTube. Do you have a still for us? Thanks!

  3. MICHAEL – thank you for sharing Dave Dexter’s story, and Boyce Brown’s reverent poetry to his “muse” and Agnes. All I can say is – wow!

  4. I really enjoyed this, thank you. I’d like to share it with my readers.

  5. Reblogged this on The Jazz House and commented:
    I truly enjoyed this and encourage you to read other post at JAZZ LIVES…

  6. One more text to belie the idea of musicians as quiet types who can only express themselves through an instrument. Beautiful, thanks for sharing this.

  7. The stereotype goes even deeper — substitute “inarticulate” for “quiet” and we are closer to the idea of Plato’s mad genius. I would love to find that 1939 DOWN BEAT interview but wonder if Boyce was permitted to come through as himself — “jazz journalism” of the time was breathless at best. Parenthetically: I first read Dexter’s fairly thin book in my youth and this stuck in my memory.

  8. Thank you so much for this, but this is so strange, because I only learned about Boyce this weekend when I picked up a record I have never heard of before, “Brother Matthew with the Eddie Condon Band.” Interesting soloist to say the least, maybe past his prime as others suggested, and a lot of wisecracks by EC.

  9. Pingback: “HOPES, UNREALIZED”: WORDS AND MUSIC BY BOYCE BROWN | JAZZ LIVES

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