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Soprano Saxophonist Steve Lacy Recalls the “Multifarious” Brion Gysin

An Interview by John Kruth


Brion Gysin was a Renaissance man in a century with a 15-second attention span. In a world where people are known for “doing one thing well,” Brion mastered a variety of disciplines which he employed to express himself at any given moment. Gysin was a painter, author, editor, musical anthropologist, inventor, philosopher, mystic and restaurateur. And to add insult to injury, he wore each of those hats with ease and remarkable panache. Surrealist ringleader André Breton, Beat novelist William S. Burroughs and Rolling Stone Brian Jones all recognized his brilliance, yet Brion’s work for some reason went virtually unnoticed by the public.

As an artist, Gysin painted otherworldly figures that danced around the canvas like cryptic Arabic and Japanese calligraphy. He was embraced and then quickly expelled (for vague reasons) by the Surrealists. In truth, Brion simply wasn’t the type to espouse the party platform, no matter how bizarre the doctrine. (Although he’s been associated with the Beats through his connection to Burroughs, Gysin would never claim to be one of that clubby bunch either.)

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