Bob Northern

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Robert Northern (May 21, 1934 – May 31, 2020), known professionally as Brother Ah, was an American jazz French hornist.

Bob Northern
Birth nameRobert Northern
Born21 May 1934
Kinston, North Carolina
Died31 May 2020
Occupation(s)French hornist
Instrument(s)French horn

Life and career[edit]

Born in 1934 in Kinston, North Carolina and raised in The Bronx,[1] Northern studied at the Manhattan School of Music[2] and at the Vienna 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,[1] Gil Evans, Sun Ra,[1] McCoy Tyner,[1] Roland Kirk, and the Jazz Composers Orchestra.[3] He also worked with Don Cherry, Thelonious Monk,[1] Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie,[1] 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).[4] In the 1970s he released several albums as a bandleader; his 1974 release Sound Awareness featured Max Roach and M'Boom.[5] 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.[6] 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.[4] 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.[7] Northern, as Brother Ah, hosted a weekly jazz oriented radio program, The Jazz Collectors, on station WPFW in Washington.

Bob Northern died in Washington on May 31, 2020, aged 86, of a respiratory illness that he had been battling for in that year.[2][8]


As leader[edit]

  • Sound Awareness (Strata-East, 1974)
  • Move Ever Onward (Divine, 1975)
  • Key to Nowhere (Divine, 1983)
  • Celebration (Mapleshade, 1993)
  • Open Sky (Divine, 1986)

As sideman[edit]

With Donald Byrd

With John Coltrane

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

With Benny Golson

With Charlie Haden

With Andrew Hill

With Freddie Hubbard

With Milt Jackson

With the Jazz Composer's Orchestra

With J. J. Johnson

With Quincy Jones

With John Lewis

With Jack McDuff

With Gary McFarland

With Thelonious Monk

With Oliver Nelson

With Lalo Schifrin

With Cal Tjader

With McCoy Tyner

With Julius Watkins


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ Bob Northern at Allmusic
  4. ^ a b Profile Archived 2019-04-09 at the Wayback Machine at Mapleshade Records
  5. ^ Bloom, Madison (June 9, 2020). "Robert Northern, Jazz Artist Known as Brother Ah, Dead at 86". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  6. ^ Sea of Sounds Archived October 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Citypaper (Baltimore), July 24, 2002.
  7. ^ "Smithsonian Education". Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  8. ^ "Jazz artist Robert 'Brother Ah' Northern has died". NME. 9 June 2020.

External links[edit]