Clifford Brown-Sarah Vaughan: September Song

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.”

July 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Art Pepper: September Song

Art Pepper had performed and recorded this song many times with the Stan Kenton band in the early 1950s, but this 1979 version is nothing like anything you will find from the Innovations Orchestra. Pepper himself had undergone a sea change. He was ravaged by years of incarceration and drug abuse, and his alto playing had been equally transformed from the sweet, innocence of 1950s West Coast jazz into a post-Coltrane cauldron of jagged lines, surprising feints and thrusts, and occasional moments of hard-won tranquility.

Pepper was in the midst of a comeback. His previous Galaxy release, Art Pepper Today, had pushed him back into the limelight, especially with his inspired workout over the closing vamp of his composition "Patricia." Pepper probably had that performance in mind, as he tries to create a similarly dramatic ballad-plus-vamp on "September Song." He doesn't reach the same level here, but he still delivers a gripping performance, and sent a message, to all who were listening, that Art Pepper was back.

May 03, 2008 · 0 comments


Gary Burton: September Song

Gary Burton, 33 years after joining the George Shearing Quintet at age 20, returns to the scene of the chimes. "September Song" recreates the aura and instrumentation that won Shearing fame when Gary was in the first grade. Half a century later, Burton enjoys vastly superior audio quality. Shamefully, Shearing's 1949-51 quintet recordings have never been suitably restored and completely collected for reissue. Thankfully, Burton & Friends lovingly and expertly revive this music from their fathers' era, which is wonderfully affirming. Jazz speaks across generations as it does across languages, cultures and races. With the clarity of a soft kiss.

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments


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