Clifford Brown: Joy Spring


Joy Spring


Clifford Brown (trumpet)


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

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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


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


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

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