I Remember Clifford
December 9, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

A Study in Brown. He was only 25 when he died, but he left a musical legacy that few can match. His early death led to the jazz standard I Remember Clifford. He helped pioneer hard bop in contrast to the prevailing "cool" jazz of Chet Baker and Miles Davis. influenced by Fats Navarro his signature rich beautiful tones and melodic solos were a refreshing change from the recent emphasis on technique, but make no mistakes about it he was one of the most talented and gifted trumpet players of all time.
posted by ozomatli (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was hesitatant about posting the I Remember Clifford link since it goes to a commercial site, but it was the only place I could find a sound clip of the previously mentioned song. In my opinion, to this day that is a song every serious jazz trumpet player should have in his/her repetoir. A perfect tribute song: beautiful and sad, yet low key and subtle.
posted by ozomatli at 11:49 AM on December 9, 2005

sonuvabitch the "cool" jazz link is wrong!!!
For those interested: Cool.
posted by ozomatli at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2005

I always enjoyed the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival when I lived in Wilmington. It's not only a tribute to Brown's memory, but a venue for jazz musicians to show how they have been influenced by his work. (And to simply hear some great jazz.)
posted by amro at 12:00 PM on December 9, 2005

Thanks for this post. Clifford Brown was amazing, and (like Fats Navarro) he died way too young. Anybody else see the play Side Man? Part of it is about the reaction to Brownie's death among jazz musicians; there's a good interview with the playwright here:
JJM The musicians in Side Man were pretty stereotypical jazz musicians who fell to a variety of addictions, yet their hero was Clifford Brown, arguably the "cleanest" of all bebop musicians. Was he their hero purely in musical terms, or because they longed for a normal life? Can you please explain this?

WL Clifford was their hero because of the way he played trumpet. Few if any players had his technical ability, and his musical ability, and his swing, and his tone. The musicians in the play were life-long jazz trumpet players, so they knew how good Clifford was.

The fact that he was clean was something musicians always mentioned, but I think only in terms of the irony of his passing at such a young age. If my father and his friends longed for a normal life, they did so subconsciously. They probably didn't realize how abnormal they were, since they only hung out with other musicians.

JJM A creative high point of the play is a four-minute scene where the sidemen listen to a bootleg tape of Clifford Brown's solo on "Night in Tunisia." Not a sound is uttered by the cast, only a state of quiet euphoria is expressed by each of the men. In fact, the scene portrays jazz being appreciated in an introspective, even "intelligent" nature Ellison expressed. Given that the dialogue of the play essentially stops during this time, weren't you taking an enormous risk with this scene? How did the director (Michael Mayer) feel about this?

WL I brought the tape in for the basement workshop. When I told Michael I had it, he said, fine, we'll play like ten seconds of it, then go the next scene. I said, it's a longer solo than that. He asked how long? When I told him it was over four minutes he shook his head and said, honey, there's no way... I asked him to listen to it just once. He humored me. And that was it. Midway through he said, oh no, we have to do the whole thing, don't we? We ended up cutting out about a chorus early, but he never wavered from going long after he heard it.
posted by languagehat at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this, ozomatli. I particularly like your last link, which takes a shot at explaining why Brown was (to my mind, at least) the greatest jazz trumpet soloist ever. (I would say jazz period, but then I'd have to argue with those who worship the divine — and he was divine— John Coltrane.)

Of course Clifford died so young that you can't say whether he would have gotten better or worse, but it's unbelievable how good he was, how fast he could play yet keep the individual notes distinct.

Not my favorite jazz musician, and obviously Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis were far more important to the music, but I think the most skilled. He is particularly brilliant on the last song he ever played, the version of Donna Lee from this album I reviewed many decades ago. He plays the tune, says a few words to the crowd, and then rides off into the rainy night to his death on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

My favorite record of his has always been Three Giants from 1956, which apparently now has been reclassified as a Sonny Rollins album. I've seen Rollins a few times, including once at the Philadelphia Academy of Music where he stood alone onstage and just improvised. He too is a musical legend, an incredible performer, but still I think not so good as was Brown.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:33 PM on December 9, 2005

As a trumpet player, Clifford possesed every quality I wanted in playing. He didn't need to screech out high out notes in every solo like so many trumpeteers today seem to to want to do. He could take a song and distill out the essence of the melody. His tone was amazing and seemed almost effortless.
posted by ozomatli at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2005

languagehat, I would love to see that play. Is it still running? Even to people who don't like jazz (or think they don't like jazz) that I have let listen Brownie's stuff are amazed at the emotion that he can can get out of a tube of metal.
posted by ozomatli at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2005

"Daahoud", "Joy Spring", etc. Unimpeachable stuff. His influence is often what I like best about other trumpeters (Lee Morgan, Roy Hargrove, etc.).

Two "etc."s are better than one.
posted by gramschmidt at 1:45 PM on December 9, 2005

Study in Brown is a fantastic album if you don't have it. Anything with Clifford Brown and Max Roach is tits.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 2:34 PM on December 9, 2005

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