Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Documentary - At Long Last - On Trumpet Virtuoso Clifford Brown

"The record companies owe it to the future of jazz to make every possible fragment of the beautiful musical gifts Clifford gave the world with unbounded love."Quincy Jones

"I thought I was a fairly good chess player until I met Clifford." Max Roach

Today, in an era typified by handsomely produced but too frequently shallow and vacuous entertainment, a musician whose warmth reaches down to the soul is pretty much unheard of. . . or merely difficult to find among a sea of drek. Just such a musician was the pride of Wilmington, Delaware - trumpet genius Clifford Brown.

Clifford Brown enjoyed a brief but meteoric career that ended with his untimely passing in an automobile accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on June 26, 1956.

Horace Silver (barely visible on left), Clifford Brown, Curly Russell, Lou Donaldson and (on right behind drum kit) Art Blakey - Birdland, February 24, 1954

Clifford shook up the music world, co-leading the groundbreaking Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet at a time when several mighty modern jazz trumpeter/bandleaders - Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Chet Baker, to name just three - were at the peak of their powers.

This music lover is eagerly awaiting his copy of Don Glanden's Brownie Speaks: A Video Documentary - The Life, Music & Legacy of Clifford Brown, which can be ordered on DVD here. Have not seen Bruce Speigel's 2016 documentary about Bill Evans yet, but that is on the cue as well.

Six years in the making, Brownie Speaks features extensive interviews, recordings, photos and archival footage of the music great.

Much looking forward to seeing this, as apparently the filmmakers have unearthed some heretofore unseen footage of Clifford, who was an accomplished pianist and composer as well as the best of the best on trumpet.

The footage of Clifford this writer knows of is the following television appearance on a show hosted by comedian and music lover Soupy Sales (note: two of Soupy's sons were bandmates of pop music innovator David Bowie).

There were two interviews with Clifford, one conducted by Willis Conover for the Voice of America radio program.

Clifford's co-bandleader, drummer Max Roach, thought the world of him.

As did the late great writer and activist Nat Hentoff, the other journalist who interviewed Clifford (for Down Beat, in its April 7, 1954 issue).

Clifford's family has carried on the torch. His widow LaRue established The Clifford Brown Jazz Foundation to promote music education in his honor, while his son has been responsible for steadfast efforts to keep his father's legacy alive, as well as produce and host stellar jazz programming for KCSM Jazz 91. In an outtake from the documentary, he reminisces about when the full impact of his father's importance in the world of music became quite apparent to him.

While, unfortunately, a fair number of Clifford Brown's more spectacular musical scenarios were not recorded - at one case he did dueling trumpets at Philadelphia's Mercantile Hall with another brass genius, Theodore "Fats" Navarro - at least his few years as a leader and sideman (with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, The Tadd Dameron Orchestra, The Swedish All-Stars and vocalists Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington) on the Blue Note and Emarcy Records labels were nothing if not prolific.

So dear readers, just in case you have not listened to the music of Clifford Brown before, here are a slew of his albums, including concerts, with which to acquaint yourselves. Enjoy!

For more info, check out the Brownie! website and read Nick Catalano's book Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter.

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