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


I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance


Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet


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

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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


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

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