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