THE DOZENS: AL HOOD SELECTS 12 ESSENTIAL CLIFFORD BROWN TRACKS by Ted Panken (editor)



                           Brown Brown by Martel Chapman

Trumpeter Clifford Brown, known affectionately as ‘Brownie,’ lived his short life to the fullest—he left the Earth when he was a mere 25. Born into the Depression in 1930 on the East Side of Wilmington, Delaware, he hailed from a family with little monetary means, but rich with love, sharing and support. The community was blessed with a great many musical personalities and one’s upbringing was intimately tied to life at Howard High School, the state’s only secondary school for blacks. Between the family, the high school and the neighbors, a child growing up in the East Side of Wilmington had a supportive and caring environment that was unparalleled.

Clifford was raised to love music through these ever-present influences and he began serious music study at the age of twelve. Within six years, he was the toast of the city. He was smitten with the bebop sound in jazz and ‘Fats’ Navarro was his primary trumpet influence, though he studied several instruments. He decided to attend college, first as a math major (he was a gifted mathematician), and then transferred his focus to music. After a serious car accident in 1950 which left him recovering in a full body cast for nearly a year, he decided to leave school and dive head first into a professional jazz career. He never looked back again. I begin this chronology of twelve varied ‘snapshots’ of Clifford Brown’s brilliant recorded output from this juncture in his life, recovered but walking with a pronounced limp.

Clifford Brown was a player who wasn’t afraid to take chances, no matter how big. His improvisations ‘danced.’ There is a joy, a warmth and a sense of humor inherent in his sound. As Benny Golson put it, “he radiated emotional impulses” and had a “mystical charm.” He was a master at outlining and implying harmony. He was a perfectionist. He was so many things. His wife LaRue called him the most perfect human being she has ever met. She only recalled one downfall—donuts! Growing up as a boy, whenever the family bought donuts, there was only enough for one each. So as an adult, whenever Clifford passed a donut shop he bought dozens and dozens, so he never ran out. “They would go stale before he could eat them all,” she recalled.

Here, I offer you twelve tasty Brownie treats and, though they will never go stale, I wouldn’t wait TOO long before you try them!



Al Hood

Alan Hood is an associate professor of trumpet at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. He has played and recorded with the Phil Collins Big Band, the Ken Walker Sextet, the Keith Oxman Sextet, Curtis Fuller, Ray Charles, the Denver Brass, the Summit Brass and the Aries Brass Quintet. He is a recognized expert on trumpeter Clifford Brown, having acted as chief researcher for Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Trumpeter for Oxford University Press as well as having made presentations on Brown at institutions nationwide. His self-produced debut CD Just A Little Taste: Al Hood Plays The Writing Of Dave Hanson features him on seven standards (including tributes to his trumpet idols Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan) and five originals set for solo trumpet, strings and winds.


Clifford Brown: I Come From Jamaica

Track

I Come From Jamaica

Group

Chris Powell and His Five Blue Flames

CD

The Beginning and the End (CBS/Sony 32 DP 663/Japan)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Osie Johnson (drums),

Chris Powell (vocal, congas); Vance Wilson (alto and tenor saxophone); Harold “Duke” Wells (piano); Eddie Lambert (electric guitar); James Johnson (bass)

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Composed by Chris Powell

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Recorded: Chicago, IL, March 21, 1952 for Okeh Records

Brown

Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

Following a debilitating car accident in the summer of 1950 which left Clifford incapacitated in a body cast for the better part of a year, he found steady musical employment with a Philadelphia-based rhythm & blues, novelty, “jive” band known as Chris Powell and His Five Blue Flames. Powell was the brash, bawdy leader on drums and the entertaining unit enjoyed a good deal of success on the R&B circuit, touring across the country but centered primarily in the East. Touring with a working band certainly had positive implications on Clifford’s future as a musician—he met and played with musicians of all types on a constant basis. Among the many musicians who heard Brown with the group during his late 1951 to mid 1953 tenure were Dr. Billy Taylor, Benny Golson, Billy Root, Charlie Parker, Red Rodney, Tadd Dameron, Lou Donaldson and Sarah Vaughan, who ‘discovered’ Clifford at the Apollo Theater.

This recording is Brownie’s first in the professional business. The song is an ‘island’ calypso number with a bridge, and is a novelty song capitalizing on the Latin craze in music during that time period. Following a drum and conga intro, Powell sings the melody over a strong 3-2 clave pattern with the band shouting responses to him on the bridge. Lambert presents a very blues-oriented electric guitar solo on the A sections with Wells pounding out an ultra-rhythmic locked hands bridge section on the piano. Then, suddenly, Brownie emerges for a full chorus with a fiery, hard-edged trumpet solo in the Gillespie style. His use of the entire spectrum of the bebop language, biting articulations and deep emotional impact contrasts markedly with the group’s rather conservative approach and fits perfectly with the underlying clave pattern. Afterwards, Powell vamps on some nonsensical syllables and the tune fades. An auspicious beginning to Brown’s recording career. The Down Beat two-star review of October 1952 reported, “and a fair trumpet solo to round things out.”

Brownie spent nearly 18 months with the band, swaying gently back and forth to their music, occasionally doubling on piano and playing bebop-inspired trumpet that was truly anomalous to the band’s prevailing style. As an aside, this session came only a month after the mysterious death of Brown’s oldest sister Marie—Clifford was noticeably shaken over the tragedy, according to those who knew him well.

Reviewer: Al Hood


J.J. Johnson (with Clifford Brown): Turnpike (alternate take)

Track

Turnpike (alternate take)

Artist

Clifford Brown (trumpet) and J.J. Johnson (trombone)

CD

Clifford Brown: The Complete Blue Note and Pacific Jazz Recordings (Blue Note CDP 7243 8 34197 2 2)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), J.J. Johnson (trombone), Jimmy Heath (tenor sax, baritone sax), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Kenny Clarke ().

Composed by J.J. Johnson

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Recorded: New York City, June 22, 1953

Albumcovereminentjjjohnson-volume1

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

June of 1953 was a very busy and prolific month for Clifford Brown. Having recently left the Blue Flames, he was working a steady summer show job with Tadd Dameron at the Club Paradise in Atlantic City. Whilst spending a great deal of time performing as a part of this revue’s band, he found opportunity to record three very important albums in his discography—his first professional jazz dates. The first was a session that he co-led with altoist Lou Donaldson for Blue Note on June 9th, promptly followed by a Prestige session with the Tadd Dameron band on June 11th. Dameron had tagged Brown as the worthy successor to ‘Fats’ Navarro a year prior, but the session he scheduled at that time didn’t materialize. The third was this session with bebop trombone great Jay Jay Johnson, tenor man Jimmy Heath and the rhythm section for the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Jimmy Heath, who hired Clifford for some of his club dates following Brown’s recovery from his 1950 car accident, remembers that on this song in particular, Johnson ended up doing multiple takes because he had developed certain ideas that he wanted to get on the record. On every take, Clifford did something fresh, creative and exciting, especially on the fast-moving cycle of fourths sequence in the tune, and the Blue Note people (namely Alfred Lion) signed him for a leader session on the spot. That session would take place a month later.

“Turnpike” is an up-tempo ‘rhythm changes’ tune which employs a 4-bar cyclic sequence during the solos on the first 4 bars of each A section. The trumpet has the lead on the introduction and melody (Heath on baritone sax), and some poor intonation and a delay in the entry of the melody might have been the reason why this didn’t end up as the master take. However, the playing is so exciting that it certainly needed to be saved. The head consists of mostly one repeated note with a few tonicizing embellishments on the A sections. Johnson improvises the bridge and my, what solid time he has! A series of two-chorus solos follows with the characteristic cycle employed on each player’s second chorus. Brownie has the first and spins out a series of shorter phrases (and a few long ones!) that are logical and balanced. He nails the cycle sequence—one of the reasons I chose the alternate was to demonstrate the mastery that the Blue Note folks recognized in Clifford. Heath is next on tenor, and plays an exciting solo, though he has a bit of an issue with the time on his initial cycle sequences. J.J. opens with a “Rhythm-a-ning” quote and performs his material with the utmost grace and ease. Lewis’s two choruses begin with a tension-building pedal point and, during the head out, a variant of the melody trades with the drums, the bass walks the bridge, and the tune winds up abruptly. This is small group jazz at its finest with Clarke and Percy Heath in outstanding form, both providing a swinging foundation.

Aside from earning Brown a Blue Note leader date, this session had a more important, farther-reaching implication. Max Roach possessed this recording and, when he was considering trumpet players for his new group in early 1954, he favored Clifford because of this album. He was enamored by Brown’s fat sound, mentioning specifically Brownie’s cup-muted work on John Lewis’s “Sketch One.” “It was like ‘Fats’ Navarro with an edge,” he recalled.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown: Easy Living

Track

Easy Living

Artist

Clifford Brown (trumpet)

CD

Clifford Brown: Memorial Album (Blue Note: 32141)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Gigi Gryce (flute), Charlie Rouse (clarinet), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Art Blakey (drums).

Recorded: New York, City, NY, August 28, 1953

Albumcovercliffordbrown-memorialalbum

Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

This was Brownie’s first date as a leader for Blue Note Records and came about after Brown’s outstanding playing on the Jay Jay Johnson Blue Note record date just a month prior. For sidemen, he chose new musical friend Gigi Gryce (with whom, by this time, he was working with in Lionel Hampton’s Band), Art Blakey (who was recommended to hire Brown earlier by none other than Charlie Parker), and Blue Note regulars Heath, Lewis and Rouse. In addition to this beautiful ballad, the session includes material by Brown himself, Gigi Gryce, Hampton trumpet mate Quincy Jones and the bebopper’s test piece “Cherokee,” which Brown had an affinity for playing. This date took place only days prior to Brown’s departure for a European tour with the great Lionel Hampton Orchestra, which was chock full of young modern jazz talent of the day. A wonderful Francis Wolff photograph from this session shows Brown and Gryce donning stickers on their chest in testament to both having been properly immunized for their impending trip overseas!

Ralph Rainger’s Easy Living, a tune often associated with songstress Billie Holiday, is relaxed and loping, and Clifford expresses the mood brilliantly. The introduction, over a bowed bass, has Gryce on a flute lead, and though it sounds much like another flute, I believe Rouse is playing the saxophone delicately and transparently underneath. Brownie enters with the melody line and presents it gracefully in a vocal style, twisting and bending notes to add color and nuance. His two A-sections of the 32-bar tune are full of rapid embellishments and additions to the melody, and he shows off his double-timing ability, which is complemented admirably by Blakey, an excellent choice for the date. During the bridge, Blakey sets up an attractive rhythmic pattern that gets picked up in a variant by Lewis. Their “chatter” surrounding Clifford’s melody is quite appealing. Brown finishes the melody with a remarkable modulation back to the B-section that falls into a double-time feel for Brownie’s melodic improvisation. Clifford takes the melody out and the introduction material recurs, providing a coda that harmonically concludes with a sound that is, to this day, quite funny to my ears!

The product as a whole is a thoughtfully arranged, highly sensitive reading of the song which leaves one with a melancholy yet wholly satisfied feeling, much like releasing a heavy sigh. As a matter of fact, in Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz, which was released in 1955 (with interviews conducted by mail in 1954), Clifford listed “Easy Living” as his best solo to date on record.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown-Lionel Hampton: Gryce Suite, Brown Skin

Track

Gryce Suite: Brown Skin

Group

Lionel Hampton Orchestra

CD

Lionel Hampton Orchestra - Mustermesse Basel 1953, Part 2 (Swiss Radio Days, Volume 18 - TCB 02182)

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Musicians:

Lionel Hampton (vibes), Clifford Brown (trumpet),

Walter Williams, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones (trumpets); Jimmy Cleveland, Buster Cooper, Al Hayse, Benny Powell (trombones); Gigi Gryce, Anthony Ortega, Clifford Scott, Clifford Solomon, Oscar Estelle (saxophones); Billy Mackel (guitar); Monk Montgomery (bass); Alan Dawson, Curley Hamner (drums)

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Composed by Gigi Gryce

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Recorded: Mustermesse, Basel, Switzerland, September 24, 1953 for live radio broadcast

Hampton

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Brownie met and jammed with some members of the 1953 Lionel Hampton Orchestra in Atlantic City while he was playing a show there led by pianist Tadd Dameron. The young Hampton musicians were thoroughly impressed with Brown’s electrifying playing and affable personality, and one in particular, Quincy Jones, begged Hamp to hire the trumpet star. There were several like-minded modern jazz ‘young lions’ in the band, besides Jones, to whom Brown was attracted: Gigi Gryce, Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Jimmy Cleveland, to name a few. Brownie joined the band and played some dates at the Band Box in New York City directly prior to flying to Europe with the band for a three-month tour. The tour was highly successful, and has become legendary for the incredible amount of clandestine recording that took place in Sweden and Paris by most of the young modernists. Lionel (and wife Gladys) Hampton strictly forbade any outside recording by band members (if he wasn’t involved), under threat of denying passage back to the States. However, the studios clamored to record the young stars, and, fortunately for us, the edict was ignored. “Brown Skin” is a feature for Clifford by Gigi Gryce on the chord changes to “Cherokee.” I mention the above background, because once those recordings started to come out, Hampton was less likely to feature his sideman this prominently, as he didn’t want people to hear and record his band members behind his back. This performance was prior to most of the recording dates and subsequent releases.

After a brief announcement by Hamp, the band goes into a bombastic intro, the brass shimmering and drums rolling. This quickly relaxes into a sweet ballad presentation by Brownie. The arrangement is very forward-looking and something akin to what Stan Kenton was exploring. Clifford is smooth, effortless, and lush. After a terse fermata chord, Brown sets a bright tempo with a solo break, joined by the bass, and then the full band assists as Brown glides into a chorus of “Cherokee” changes. On his second chorus, band interchanges alternate with his brilliant solo statements, his long phrases leaving the listener breathless at times. The full band takes an interlude on the tune’s A sections and Clifford re-enters on the bridge, deftly quoting “Laura” in the upper register. He solos through the last A section as the band punctuates and concludes the tune with solo trumpet over Dawson’s high-hat time to wild applause from what sounds like a vast crowd in attendance.

Though the overall sound quality is, by modern standards, quite inferior, the strength and power of this great band is readily apparent. The minor deficiencies in ensemble work are supplanted by the energy of the group as a whole and certainly by Brownie’s never-ending musical palette. He expertly modifies his phrases in slight ways in order to retain continuity of ideas, which provides cohesion to his solo. Brown and nine others were ultimately fired from the band for their secretive recordings and found themselves back in the States in early December 1953 without employment. However, Brownie would soon become widely known to the music world through those recordings and those put out by Blue Note and Prestige.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown-Art Blakey: Blues

Track

Blues

Group

Art Blakey Quintet

CD

Clifford Brown: The Complete Blue Note and Pacific Jazz Recordings (Blue Note CDP 7423 8 34198 2 1)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Art Blakey (drums), Lou Donaldson (alto sax), Horace Silver (piano), Curly Russell (bass).

Composed by traditional (uncredited)

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Recorded: New York City, Birdland Club, February 21, 1954

Clifford_brown_the_complete_blue_note_and_pacific_jazz_recordings

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Upon his release from the Hampton Band in December 1953, Brownie found employment wherever he could—most notably with Charlie Parker and Art Blakey. The brilliant recordings he made in New York City in the Fall and the ones captured while in Europe were being released steadily to positive critical acclaim, and it was inevitable that before long, Brown would be snatched up as a star sideman or become a leader in his own right on the professional jazz circuit. This historic live date with Art Blakey in February 1954, came just before his emergence.

Alfred Lion asked Blakey to do a live date at Birdland for the Blue Note label and Art responded by hiring an all-star cast. With the advent of the LP, it was now becoming feasible to present live dates and extended songs and we are certainly richer for it. There were some rehearsals for the date and incidentally, when Miles Davis attended one, Clifford played so well that Davis told him that he hoped he would “break his chops!” The night was recorded (superbly by Rudy Van Gelder, I might add) in five shorter sets, so some of the tunes are repeated for alternate takes. “Blues” falls somewhere in the middle and it seems like the band just wanted to ‘get down and dirty’ in the midst of a series of pretty demanding tunes. Hence, we have a relaxed-groove, blues-drenched outing, much to the audience’s delight (you can hear a fan shout “harder, harder") and also to Blakey’s, who shouts to Lou Donaldson, “blow your horn!”

Horace Silver sets the pace with an eight-bar intro, emphasizing the triplet feel and sets up what might initially be mistaken for as “stripper” music, complete with audience jeers! Donaldson’s four choruses are very Parker-esque, as one might expect, in the “Parker’s Mood” vein—he is a true master of this idiom. Brownie’s four choruses are dripping with raw blues emotion—there is very little in his output that contains such base emotions. His emphatic and clarion statements alternate with phrases that sound almost like crying, exciting the crowd and building tension. By the third chorus, his lines carry the impact of a knife cutting repeated deep slashes as he sets up a kind of call-and-response with himself between the lower and upper registers of the horn. After some effective stop-time on chorus four, Brown ends with a fantastically executed double time passage. Silver’s four choruses (and his comping) are classic Horace ‘Messengers'; churchy, punchy, full of triplets and heavy shuffle rhythms. Russell provides a wonderfully solid feel, and it is apparent that Blakey is loving every second of this.

We are left with a slice of history that was undoubtedly both fun and cathartic for the players and audience. The beauty of it is that we can actually feel and enjoy it the same way those lucky participants did 55 years ago. And to think that LaRue once told me that she didn’t think Cliff (as she called him) could play the blues!

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown: Joy Spring

Track

Joy Spring

Artist

Clifford Brown (trumpet)

CD

Clifford Brown: The Complete Blue Note and Pacific Jazz Recordings (Blue Note CDP 7243 8 34197 2 2)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Stu Williamson (valve trombone), Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Bob Gordon (baritone sax), Russ Freeman (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), Shelly Manne (drums).

Jack Montrose (arranger); Composed by Clifford Brown

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Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, July 12, 1954 for Pacific Jazz

Clifford_brown_the_complete_blue_note_and_pacific_jazz_recordings

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Less than a month after the historic February 1954 A Night At Birdland session with Art Blakey, Brownie found himself in California as the new co-leader of a hard bop quintet with master drummer Max Roach. The group went through a few personnel changes during its first months of existence, and eventually opened at the California Club in April for an extended engagement. Once in Los Angeles, Clifford met, and was immediately attracted to, a young USC psychology student named LaRue Anderson, who was writing a master’s thesis attempting to disprove jazz as an art form. She formed a bond with Max Roach and Charlie Parker in the process, and consequently met Clifford when they both thought she and he would make a good couple. Though it took LaRue awhile to give him a second look, they eventually dated, fell in love, and were married on June 26th of that year (also her birthday). Clifford asked her if she would marry his music and him! During their spring courtship, Brown introduced a new song at the California Club for the girl he recently met that had become his “Joy Spring.” I understand the original title was actually “Little Miss Meow,” and I’ll just leave that one to your imagination! Though LaRue didn’t understand his improvisational genius, she recognized his beauty and told me that he would “absorb the sound of the ocean and the feeling for a sunset,” and it would be reflected in his music.

This recording date features the first recording of two Brown originals—“Daahoud” and “Joy Spring.” Dick Bock had heard Clifford and wanted to record him for his fledgling Pacific Jazz label in the West Coast style with a band of his design. To write the arrangements, he hired tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose, who was working with Art Pepper in a group that was playing opposite the Brown-Roach Quintet at the Tiffany Club around the time of this session. He spent days and nights with Brown, discussing and finalizing all the arrangements. It is unclear whether it was planned or simply a mistake that “Joy Spring” ended up in the key of Eb here as opposed to F as when the Brown-Roach group waxed their version about three weeks later. Whatever the circumstance, Brown plays through it with characteristic ease, even though the second section places him in E-major!

Montrose’s arrangement is busy and quite classical in nature with three lower-voiced horns supporting Brown’s trumpet melody in a kind of responsorial counterpoint. While very “arranged,” the B section does swing, as do the solos. Clifford takes a break into his one-chorus statement and he is extremely melodic in approach, while both he and the rhythm section swing joyously. Though played with a slight restraint, there is very little change from the Brownie the world has come to know thus far. Manne supports with some well-articulated punches on the snare. Bob Gordon follows with a chorus and is also highly melodic, sounding somewhat like Harold Land did when paired with Brown. The melody goes out in a rhythmic variation, complete with some swells by the horns, and Clifford’s melody is voiced to jump in and out of the harmonized horn texture underneath. A quick outing, the whole presentation clocks in at just over three minutes.

Foreshadowing Brown’s own fatal car accident two years later, Bob Gordon, the other featured soloist on this selection, would perish in a similar car incident in August 1955.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Max Roach-Clifford Brown: (I Don't Stand) A Ghost Of A Chance

Track

I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance

Group

Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet

CD

Brownie: The Complete EmArcy Recordings of Clifford Brown (EmArcy 838 307-2)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Max Roach (drums), Harold Land (tenor sax), Richie Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass).

Composed by Victor Young, Bing Crosby and Ned Washington

.

Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, August 3, 1954 for EmArcy Records

Brownie_the_complete_emarcy_recordings

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This is the second day of studio recording for the EmArcy label by what most would term the “classic” Brown-Roach Quintet with Harold Land, George Morrow and Richie Powell. This configuration played together for about a year and a half before Sonny Rollins replaced Land. Of the many studio recordings the band made, this cut must certainly rank as one of its finest. The 1950s period in jazz history is partially defined by the fervent choice/goal of so many jazz players to create so called ‘melodic’ improvisations—variations that can stand on their own as if pre-composed for the occasion. Brownie stands out as one of the best practitioners, and, in my humble opinion, this solo is one of the greatest to have been captured on record. If one stops to consider that Brown was just 23 years old at this time, the maturity of his rendition takes on an even greater sense of accomplishment.

The seven-minute showcase is all Brownie except for Powell’s 4-bar introduction and his 16 bars of embellished melody inserted as an interlude prior to Clifford’s dramatic ending. He sets up the tune skillfully with rolled chords that sound like quick and succinct harp glisses. Clifford enters with a rich, burnished tone that at times caresses and warms and at other times crackles and pops. His vibrato shimmers like a vocalist as he presents a sentimental, heart-tugging rendition of the melody. At one moment hesitant, the next prodding and cajoling, Brown keeps the listener’s interest piqued. One technique Brownie keeps in play here that is unique to him is his use of the consonant “n” in his repeated articulations. To achieve this, he inserts his tongue between his teeth (like saying the letter n), while connecting a series of notes to bottle up the sound and produce an effect akin to vocalizing words. His improvisation is in a double time feel from the rhythm section, with Brown often quadrupling the time to great result. Some phrases are fluid, some are ‘pecking’ in contrast, and Roach and the rest of the rhythm section support all of them wonderfully. The new creation is SO melodic that it indeed does sound like it could have been pre-written. A surviving partial alternate shows the same creativity, yet different ideas! There is a sense of classical balance to Brown's improvisation, as he spins out such long phrasing with sheer artistry—a rich combination of inspired performance and high level organizational ability. After Powell’s 16-measure melody in ballad time, Roach thunders a drum roll into a heavy swinging double-time groove on the bridge, featuring a final improvisation from Brown. Clifford wails the final melody in the upper register, exhibiting a power that could match any trumpeter’s, and concludes with a cadenza that only he could fashion. A startling piece of jazz.

The group would perform this live on numerous occasions as a feature for Brown. Down Beat called this particular recording “one of the achievements of the year.”

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown-Sarah Vaughan: September Song

Track

September Song

Group

Sarah Vaughan with Ernie Wilkins’ Orchestra

CD

Brownie: The Complete EmArcy Recordings of Clifford Brown (EmArcy 838 313-2)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Sarah Vaughan (vocals), Herbie Mann (flute), Paul Quinichette (tenor sax), Jimmy Jones (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), Roy Haynes (drums).

Ernie Wilkins (arranger and conductor) Composed by: Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson

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Recorded: New York, December 16, 1954

Brownie_the_complete_emarcy_recordings

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Sarah Vaughan met and heard Brownie while he was a member of Chris Powell and His Five Blue Flames, and claimed to have ‘discovered’ him at the Apollo Theater. She broached the topic of recording together, Powell recalls, but the session didn’t take place until this date two years later while both were part of EmArcy’s artist roster. Brown’s widow LaRue always noted how much Clifford admired and listened to Vaughan and owned many of her records. That comes as no surprise when you hear Clifford play a ballad or interpret a melody, always eliciting a vocal approach.

Here, Vaughan gives special treatment to Kurt Weill’s show tune “September Song.” A beautiful introduction with flute, tenor saxophone and cup-muted trumpet over a bowed bass approximates a morning sunrise, setting up Vaughan’s solo melody entrance. She portrays the lyrics perfectly, displaying a quick vibrato (which can take some getting used to for a few listeners), impeccable pitch, and occasional use of her deep, rich low-register notes, all accompanied empathetically by “Vice Prez” Quinichette on the tenor saxophone far in the background. Her playfulness with the intonation, seeming to ‘get there’ at just the right time, also helps her to massage certain melody notes and bait the listener to lead them right where she so chooses. Clifford enters with a rare recorded cup-mute solo, conjuring up at once ‘Fats’ Navarro and a bluesy Charlie Parker. His phrases seem to dance through the tune, barely ever touching the ground. His melodic quotient is so high that the solo seems pre-composed and his emphatic delivery makes one feel every piercing note. Brown often slips effortlessly into double-timing and his syncopations are sometimes suspended rhythmically across strong beats and bar lines. It is a monumental solo. Mann takes eight on the flute and really does not know what do to with the tune, sounding rather lost. In his defense, I would not be envious of anyone who had to follow Clifford’s initial statement. Brown comes back for eight more, and, at the conclusion of his solo, Vaughan enters with a melismatic display so fresh that it is the highlight of the song, if not the whole album. She finishes the tune leaving the listener with a sense of great optimism.

History has called this session one of Sarah Vaughan’s finest. LaRue agrees—she was there. She remembers the moment she broke into tears when the romantic Clifford cocked his head and pointed at her as Vaughan began vocalizing “I’m Glad There Is You.”

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown: Stardust

Track

Stardust

Group

Clifford Brown with Strings

CD

Brownie: The Complete EmArcy Recordings of Clifford Brown (EmArcy 558078)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Richie Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass), Max Roach (drums).

Neal Hefti (arranger and conductor); Six Violins, 2 Violas, 1 Cello and 1 Harp (unidentified studio strings). Composed by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parrish

.

Recorded: New York City, January 20, 1955

Albumcovercliffordbrownwithstrings

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

The album Clifford Brown With Strings has an interesting ‘behind the scenes’ tale, if we look to his widow LaRue Brown-Watson for the storyline. EmArcy Record’s producer Bobby Shad suggested the project, recognizing Clifford’s beautiful touch with a ballad, and primed Brownie for the session. Clifford didn’t want to do it, but LaRue, who also appreciated when he performed ballads and classical works, encouraged him to do the date. According to LaRue, Clifford began urging her early on in their marriage to have a child—LaRue wouldn’t budge, expressing that she was much too young to take on the responsibility of a child. He would not relinquish his constant requests, and finally, with a little prodding from her own mother as well, agreed to the idea of carrying a child. LaRue fondly remembers that the strings date was his personal gift to her for that blessing bestowed upon him. In December 1955, Clifford Brown, Jr. (she insisted on the namesake) was born to the couple and Clifford enjoyed the company of his little boy for six months, playing for him, talking philosophy to him and teaching him all he knew about music.

Neal Hefti, who was given undue criticism for his lush, sweet and sentimental arrangements for the date, recalls that Brown only hit three ‘clams’ in the entire three-day recording session. Hefti’s string frameworks complement Brown’s glorious tone, which simply needs to be heard to be truly appreciated. No words can do it justice—if something can be perfect in this world, this would come awfully close. Brown is a bona fide singer of songs and his artistry is evident on every track of this album. The reason I chose this particular tune is for the 20-second phrase that is exactly two minutes into the cut. It is a delightful and timeless phrase that brings utter satisfaction with every repeated listening.

Though the album was panned critically at the time, the general listener gleaned its meaning. It opened up a new appreciative audience for Brown. Shad said it was a best seller at the time—one of EmArcy’s biggest money makers. With the passing of time, musicians have gotten the message as well. Wynton Marsalis informs that he learned all of the album’s solos as a young apprentice.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown-Max Roach: Blues Walk

Track

Blues Walk

Group

Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet

CD

Brownie: The Complete EmArcy Recordings of Clifford Brown (EmArcy 838 315-2)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Max Roach (drums), Harold Land (tenor sax), Richie Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass).

Credited to Clifford Brown, but is actually the 1952 tune “Loose Walk” by Sonny Stitt

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Recorded: New York City, February 24, 1955 for EmArcy Records

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Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

When the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet formed in the spring of 1954, Sonny Stitt was its first saxophone player. Not able to support three leaders, this group as such only lasted a few weeks, with Stitt being replaced initially by Teddy Edwards, and he by Land. Sonny left behind a wonderful blues riff tune for the quintet’s repertoire, one that he recorded under the title “Loose Walk” in 1952. Why it has been attributed to Brown is a mystery, since he would never have knowingly taken credit for another’s creative contribution. This particular arrangement, albeit simple, gets to the heart of what the Max Roach-Clifford Brown aggregation was all about—excitement, dynamics, hearty swing and coherence of improvisational thought. It offers the listener the true spirit of jazz in such a way that tugs at their emotions by organizing well-placed moments of tension and release into the overall presentation. It wasn’t to be just a ‘blowing session’ left to chance.

The arrangement is simple enough in its execution, but what the players do within that framework is the true genius. The medium-up punchy riff tune is repeated twice, and Brown has the break into the first solo. He intermixes blues-inflected passages with those that take the twists and turns of a studied bebop master. He builds tension to his fourth and fifth choruses where Land plays a background riff that adds to the tension. Relief comes on the sixth chorus, as Brown backs down again and builds toward the next climax. His seven choruses lead into Land’s eight, where a similar approach is employed, Brown riffing on the fifth and sixth choruses. Land has a wonderful ‘barking’ quality to his tone and, complements Brown’s phrases wonderfully. Powell builds his six-chorus solo to a polyrhythmic frenzy by the final chorus, then hands it to the ensemble which plays a four-bar send off to Roach’s drum solo. The sendoff happens again and Max takes another five solo drum choruses that lead smoothly into a series of trading by the horns. These interchanges are some of the most exciting in recorded jazz. Two choruses of fours lead into a chorus of twos, a chorus of ones, and a chorus of half-bar improvisations. It is a tremendously difficult task for an improviser to coordinate these short interplays into coherent, flowing lines, but these musicians do it admirably. If you compare this to the alternate take, you can hear how things can go quickly awry if the timing happens to get away from you! Clifford misses the downbeat of the melody out, but it in no way detracts from the excitement of the moment. This is recorded jazz done in a brilliant and thrilling fashion.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown: A Night In Tunisia

Track

A Night in Tunisia

Artist

Clifford Brown (trumpet)

CD

The Beginning and the End (CBS/Sony 32 DP 663/Japan)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet),

Billy Root (tenor saxophone); Sam Dockery (piano); Ace Tesone (bass); Ellis Tollin (drums)

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Composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli

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Recorded: Philadelphia, PA, May 31, 1955 - privately recorded jam session at the Music City Drum Shop

Brown

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

This has been Brownie’s most controversial date since its release by Columbia in 1973. For close to 30 years this has been propagated as Clifford’s last session, reportedly done just hours before his death in the horrific turnpike accident. Billy Root himself, in a Cadence interview, said that the date occurred maybe a year prior to his death—because he was out on the road with Stan Kenton when the crash happened. (He was accurate—tour dates show him in Wisconsin at the time of Brown’s accident.) University of the Arts professor Don Glanden and myself tracked down Ellis Tollin, who owned the drum shop in Philadelphia where this jam session took place, and also hosted and played drums on the weekly sessions. They were called “Swing Club” jam sessions and they took place every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. from roughly 1954-1956, mainly for the benefit of the city’s underage musicians and fans to hear and play with the jazz stars who were appearing at Philadelphia’s Blue Note Club. Tollin produced flyers from the session, dated for May 31, 1955, complete with photos and a description listing the tunes and proceedings. The fact that Tollin himself thought these were still the recordings of Brownie’s last night leads me to believe that Brown did indeed play at Music City on his way out of town to Chicago, but this was not the recording of it (he played there many times). Others reported hearing Clifford there that evening as well. The Columbia date is completely erroneous—they list Monday, June 25th as the 1956 session date. The sessions always took place on Tuesday evenings. Also, Clifford’s fatal crash was not on June 26th, as commonly reported, but in the very early morning hours (1 a.m.) of Wednesday, June 27th, according to the Pennsylvania State Police report. That is neither here nor there when it comes down to the music, but I believe that it is proper to set the historical record straight.

It is very appropriate that “A Night In Tunisia” was chosen for the jam. Gillespie was an early champion of Brown after Clifford sat in with Diz’s big band in 1949, in Wilmington, Delaware, and flabbergasted him. He also personally encouraged Brownie to pursue music while he was recovering from his 1950 car accident. After the traditional intro, Brown takes the melody in his inimitable style and plays a four-bar break into his solo which excites the crowd. The rhythm section re-enters a beat late, but this doesn’t faze Brown. His ensuing five choruses (over three and a half consecutive minutes!) are full of blistering high notes, cascading triplets, diminished sequences and patterns, and emphatic repeated figures. He builds climax after climax. It is a solo that makes one pause and thank the stars that it was saved on tape! Root follows with four choruses of feel-good swing, sounding bold, confident and as melodic as Clifford. Sam Dockery, a friend of Clifford’s and future Blakey Jazz Messenger, is up next on piano—unfortunately, his outing is reduced down to just one chorus on most releases. Brown returns for two more ‘fire breathing’ choruses, Tollin providing wonderful support and interplay, and plays through the head into a short cadenza. By this time, Brown’s constant forays into the upper register have taken a toll and it is a struggle for him to get some of his high notes to speak. He must have created a little melodramatic scene during the cadenza because the audience chuckles for a moment. He finally reaches his intended note amidst audience cheering.

Reviewer: Al Hood


Clifford Brown-Max Roach: Good Bait

Track

Good Bait

Group

Max Roach - Clifford Brown Quintet

CD

The Last Concert: Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet (Rare Live Recordings 88617)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Max Roach (drums), Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Richie Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass).

Composed by Tadd Dameron

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Recorded: Norfolk, VA, June 18, 19 or 20, 1956 for a live WIOR radio broadcast from the Continental Restaurant

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Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

When Harold Land left the quintet in November 1955 to tend to an ailing grandmother in California (he also missed his home life), Max and Clifford located the great Sonny Rollins, who was then living in a Chicago YMCA, re-evaluating his life, and practicing with none other than trumpeter Booker Little. They hired Rollins to play the Beehive Club (recordings of this exist also) and he joined the band permanently until the unexpected Pennsylvania Turnpike accident changed the quintet’s fate and direction. This is indeed the final recording of the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, recorded live at the Continental Restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia (a place where Roach’s relatives had to sit on the stage in order to enjoy the band), just days prior to the deaths of Brown, Richie Powell, and Powell’s young wife Nancy on June 27th while driving en route to the quintet’s next engagement in Chicago. Though it was broadcast live for WIOR radio (as announced by Bob Story), this is actually a private tape done by the owners of the restaurant, which accounts for the poor sound quality (the piano is only slightly audible) and incomplete songs.

I chose this selection (they are all top notch) because Tadd Dameron figured so prominently in Brownie’s early recording career and now on his final recording. As superb as Harold Land was, the addition of Rollins to the quintet pushed it to a new level. The front line horns fed off of each other and you can hear (and feel) the empathy the two had for one another. Rollins once stated in an interview that he and Brown both felt that on this final gig, they were acting as one, breathing and phrasing together, and were constantly inspired by the thematic ideas each created. Clifford and Sonny split up the melody to “Good Bait,” with Clifford improvising into and through the final A section. They play the standard interlude over the next two A sections and Brown starts his marvelous choruses on the bridge, beginning with a march-like feel. He plays a series of florid runs, with exceptional double-timing, bluesy riffs and a good many triplets, at times seeming like he is just barely touching on the notes, as though they were raindrops hitting a tin roof. Rollins starts his five choruses by toying with the melody notes, twisting some to suit his fancy. He also explores the triplet idea introduced earlier by Brown and lays down a few humorous quotes, testing the audience’s listening skill, or maybe just amusing himself and his band mates. Powell entrenches himself in a rhythmic block chord solo and Morrow quickly falls into a two-beat feel for the remainder of his solo in which Powell runs a gamut of quotes, including “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and the “Old Irish Washer Woman.” George Morrow’s bass solo fades in his first chorus—once again, he doesn’t get his proper due!

The quintet had a few days off following this engagement and were to reconvene in Chicago for a job at the Blue Note Club commencing on June 27th. Clifford’s wife LaRue had traveled to California to show off their new son, one of the few times she didn’t travel with her husband on the road. Roach and Powell returned to New York and on June 22nd, the band made the fabulous Saxophone Colossus album together. Brown spent a few well deserved days with family and friends in Wilmington, then, on June 26th, called his wife for her birthday and their anniversary, went to the racetrack and enjoyed a good soul food dinner prepared by his sister Geneva at his parents' home. Pleading that he didn’t want to go, he hesitantly drove his car up to Philadelphia, reportedly played the early Music City jam session, picked up Richie Powell and his wife Nancy, and started out toward Chicago on a rainy summer night. Powell’s near-sighted wife lost control of the car near Bedford, Pennsylvania, and the trio hit a bridge abutment over Route 220, careening down an embankment to their demise. Roach and Rollins were already in Chicago when they received the tragic news—Max retreated to his room with a bottle of cognac, and remembered, while Sonny simply played his saxophone all night long in his room. LaRue was now a widow and Clifford, Jr., was now an orphan. Clifford Brown’s trumpet was silenced for good, with only these fantastic recordings to speak on behalf of his greatness.

Reviewer: Al Hood


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