Clifford Brown: I Come From Jamaica


I Come From Jamaica


Chris Powell and His Five Blue Flames


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

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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)


Composed by Chris Powell


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


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

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