Clifford Brown, trumpet titan /2

    Brown seemed to excel at everything - chess, pool, table tennis, maths ... and jazz trumpet, becoming in the last case one of the most highly regarded players of the hard bop period. Part two of a three-part survey of his life and music

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    Clifford Brown (left) and Lou Donaldson

    Lionel Hampton, encouraged by his formidable wife Gladys, had a reputation of being less than generous with salaries but the lure of a 1953 European tour was enough for everyone to overcome their reservations about the money. With its JATP-like atmosphere of excitement the band proved to be hugely popular with European audiences. Standing ovations began at the first two concerts in Oslo on 6 September where 2000 people attended and the acclaim apparently continued for the rest of the tour.

    The Hamptons made it clear that the musicians would not be able to record without the leader while they were in Europe and anyone found breaking this rule would be sent back to the States. Brown, Gryce and Jimmy Cleveland found that producers were desperate to record them and the musicians for their part were just as keen to supplement their band income. Lionel and Gladys tried but could not prevent clandestine recordings taking place.

    Having engineered an escape from their hotel by climbing down a fire escape after midnight, Brown, Quincy Jones and Art Farmer made their way to the Metronome studios in Stockholm for a record date with some of Sweden’s finest

    On 15 September, having engineered an escape from their hotel by climbing down a fire escape after midnight, Brown, Quincy Jones and Art Farmer made their way to the Metronome studios in Stockholm for a record date with some of Sweden’s finest. Ake Persson, Arne Domnerus, Lars Gullin, Bengt Hallberg, Gunnar Johnson and Jack Noren were on hand to interpret Lover Come Back To Me, Falling In Love With Love and two of Jones’s new originals Stockholm Sweetnin’ and ’Scuse These Blues. Clifford has a bright, sparkling chorus on Lover Come Back and ’Scuse These Blues is notable for six choruses of exchanges between Brown and Farmer, both in cup mutes. The tongue-in-cheek coda here is right out of the Dixieland playbook.

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    During the tour Hampton often pitted the two trumpets against each other because, as Farmer said, “Hamp goes for battles so this was his chance for a never-ending trumpet battle between us.”

    While the band was in Paris, Vogue Records recorded Brown and Gryce on no less than six occasions from 28 September to 15 October. The first date featured Hampton sidemen together with French musicians such as Fred Gerard, Henri Renaud and Pierre Michelot. Gryce’s extended feature for Clifford titled Brown Skins was an adventurous piece of writing. After a slow, dramatic opening the trumpeter takes off on a stunning uptempo examination of Cherokee, one of his favourite sequences.

    In contrast, Quincy Jones’s Keepin’ Up With Jonesy has a lightly swinging Count Basie feel with eloquent muted conversations between Brown and Art Farmer. Based on Moonglow, it also features an outstanding contribution from Jimmy Cleveland. The following day Clifford’s sextet with Gryce, Jimmy Gourley, Renaud, Michelot and Jean-Louis Viale recorded the trumpeter’s Goofin’ With Me. Opening and closing with an eight-bar riff it allows the principals to stretch out inventively on the changes of Indiana. Blue Concept is another fine original this time by Gryce with some impressive double-time passages in the second and third choruses by Clifford.

    Hampton’s band then left for a series of concerts in Dusseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin. On their return to Paris, Brown and Gryce resumed their sextet date with a selection of Gryce originals. His Minority was introduced here; it was to become a jazz standard with performances by Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Lee Konitz among others. The attractive Salute To The Bandbox, based on I’ll Remember April, has the composer’s finest solo of the set with Clifford matching him all the way. The next day – 9 October – two big band titles were recorded featuring a mix of Hampton sidemen and French locals. Brown is only heard on Bum’s Rush, an extrovert Woody Herman-like chart by Quincy Jones.

    Clifford’s last Paris date occurred a week later with Renaud, Michelot and Benny Bennett. Blue And Brown is all trumpet on a themeless blues with a bridge. It Might As Well Be Spring is one of his most sensitive ballad readings, with extensive use of his warm lower register. The uptempo Song Is You finds him inspired by one of Jerome Kern’s loveliest melodies, resulting in five minutes of sheer beauty. Having played with Brown on most of the Paris dates, Renaud said “He possessed the highest qualities: a world of technique, a real trumpet sound, fat and strong, and a wonderful ear.”

    These hastily arranged European sessions established Brown’s reputation as a soloist of the first rank. This was acknowledged a year later by Downbeat writers, who voted him the New Star on Trumpet.

    When the Hampton band arrived back in NYC in November 1953 some of the sidemen threatened to go to the union over salary disputes. In a 1991 interview with Cadence magazine Jimmy Cleveland said “We got shafted with the money … (Hampton) would always do that.” For his part the leader intended filing charges with the AFM against the musicians for recordings made in Paris using arrangements from his library without permission.

    Brownie accepted an invitation to join Art Blakey for a two-week booking at Birdland with Horace Silver, Curly Russell and his friend Lou Donaldson. Although not billed as such this was the forerunner of the Jazz Messengers

    Brownie began freelancing around NYC before accepting an invitation to join Art Blakey for a two-week booking at Birdland with Horace Silver, Curly Russell and his friend Lou Donaldson. Although not billed as such this was the forerunner of the Jazz Messengers. On 21 February 1954 Blue Note was on hand to record the group performing bebop staples including Night In Tunisia, Wee-Dot, Now’s The Time and Confirmation. The prodigious Horace Silver contributed two outstanding originals to the date – Quicksilver, based on Lover Come Back To Me and including humorous references to Donkey Serenade and Oh You Beautiful Doll, and Split Kick, a clever contrafact of There Will Never Be Another You. Clifford’s ballad feature Once In A While is notable for the way he introduces waltz time during the bridge and also for his extended, brilliantly executed coda.

    A couple of weeks after the Birdland date Clifford received a telephone call from Max Roach which resulted in a complete change of direction for them both. Roach had been encouraged by Gene Norman to form his own group and with the promise of work from the promoter he invited Brown to fly out to Los Angeles and join him. At the time Max was in the house band at the Lighthouse in Los Angeles where he had a six-month contract. He had taken over from Shelly Manne for the 52-week, five-nights-a-week gig but there was a clause in his contract committing him to finding a suitable replacement if he left. Stan Levey had just arrived back in town after Stan Kenton had temporarily disbanded so Max called him. After discussions with Howard Rumsey, Levey took over at a salary of $200 a week.

    Max and Brownie rented a two-bedroom apartment together which facilitated in-depth musical policy discussions as well as lengthy chess games which the trumpeter usually won. Sonny Stitt had travelled with Clifford from New York and the quintet’s first booking was at the California club on Santa Barbara Avenue owned by Gene Norman. Stitt only remained with the group for about six weeks. He was replaced by Teddy Edwards, who, with Carl Perkins and George Bledsoe, appeared on the quintet’s first concert performance at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on 13 July 1954. Four of the concert titles were recorded and the date is notable for the trumpeter’s lengthy and inventive workout on Clifford’s Axe, based on The Man I Love.

    Soon after this concert a Nat Hentoff feature in Downbeat was headlined “Clifford Brown – The New Dizzy”. The quintet continued to evolve because two weeks after the Pasadena date Edwards, Perkins and Bledsoe left and were replaced by Harold Land, Richie Powell and George Morrow. This line-up remained together for the next year. Clifford told Nat Hentoff at the time “One thing which has hurt small jazz units is the fact that bookers haven’t been sure they’d get the same personnel the next time they hired a unit. Max and I have had offers to headline as singles but unless they hire the whole unit we won’t take the job.” In May the quintet undertook a West Coast tour promoted by Gene Norman that climaxed at the Shrine Auditorium in Hollywood on 31 August.

    Read part one of this article; read part three

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