Life and career
Born in 1934 in Kinston, North Carolina and raised in The Bronx, Northern studied at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Vienna State Academy in the 1950s. He was perhaps best known as a session musician, working extensively in the 1950s and 1960s with musicians such as Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Roland Kirk, and the Jazz Composers Orchestra. He also worked with Don Cherry, Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Eric Dolphy, Charlie Haden, and John Lewis.
He lived in New York City from 1963 to 1971, and after a period of increasing interest in non-Western music, visited and studied in Africa (Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania) during seven consecutive summers (1972 -1977). In the 1970s he released several albums as a bandleader; his 1974 release Sound Awareness featured Max Roach and M'Boom. These albums were reissued on CD on the Ikef Records label in the 2000s. In addition to horn playing, Northern also branched into percussion and flute performance later in his career. He taught at Dartmouth College from 1970 to 1973, Brown University from 1973 to 1982 and then at the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. from 1982. Northern was also the founder of the World Music Ensemble, a group which explores African, Japanese, Spanish, East Indian, Native American and American musical traditions and the founder of The Sounds of Awareness Ensemble which explores the sounds of nature and music. Northern, as Brother Ah, hosted a weekly jazz oriented radio program, The Jazz Collectors, on station WPFW in Washington.
- Sound Awareness (Strata-East, 1974)
- Move Ever Onward (Divine, 1975)
- Key to Nowhere (Divine, 1983)
- Celebration (Mapleshade, 1993)
- Open Sky (Divine, 1986)
With Donald Byrd
With John Coltrane
With Gil Evans
With Art Farmer
With Benny Golson
With Charlie Haden
- Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!, 1969)
With Andrew Hill
- Passing Ships (Blue Note, 1969 )
With Freddie Hubbard
- The Body & the Soul (Impulse!, 1963)
With Milt Jackson
With the Jazz Composer's Orchestra
- The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (JCOA, 1968)
With J. J. Johnson
With Quincy Jones
- Quincy Jones Explores the Music of Henry Mancini (Mercury, 1964)
- Quincy Plays for Pussycats (Mercury, 1959-65 )
With John Lewis
With Jack McDuff
With Gary McFarland
- Profiles (Impulse!, 1966)
With Thelonious Monk
- The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (Riverside, 1959)
With Oliver Nelson
- Full Nelson (Verve, 1963)
With Lalo Schifrin
With Cal Tjader
- Several Shades of Jade (Verve, 1963)
With McCoy Tyner
- Tender Moments (Blue Note, 1967)
With Julius Watkins
- French Horns for My Lady (Philips, 1962)
- Schatz, Lake (June 8, 2020). "R.I.P. Robert Northern, Jazz Artist Also Known as Brother Ah, Dead at 86". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
- Barnes, Bart (June 1, 2020). "Robert Northern, who, as 'Brother Ah,' became a synthesizer of sounds, dies at 86". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- Bob Northern at Allmusic
- Profile at Mapleshade Records
- Bloom, Madison (June 9, 2020). "Robert Northern, Jazz Artist Known as Brother Ah, Dead at 86". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
- Sea of Sounds Archived October 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Citypaper (Baltimore), July 24, 2002.
- "Smithsonian Education". Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2008-02-29.