Clifford Brown – Max Roach Quintet – Live at The Continental Restaurant – WNOR-AM Broadcast – June 18, 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The legendary Clifford Brown this weekend. In what very well may have been his last known broadcast before an untimely death from a car accident on his way to another gig. The broadcast was live by WNOR-AM in Norfolk, Virginia on June 18, 1956 – Clifford Brown’s death occurred on June 26th.
News of his death sent shock waves all over the Jazz community. Here was an artist whose career was bright and filled with promise – not to mention being one of the most innovative voices in modern Jazz. His contributions, had he lived, would have been inestimable – his influence would have been far-reaching; surely more than it already was, even at the early age of 25.
At the time of his death he left behind four years’ worth of recordings. He was also a composer of note: his compositions “Sandu,” “Joy Spring,” and “Daahoud” have become jazz standards.
Brown won the Down Beat critics’ poll for New Star of the Year in 1954; he was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1972 in the critics’ poll. He influenced later jazz trumpeters such as Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and Lee Morgan.
Clifford Brown was influenced and encouraged by Fats Navarro, whom he first met at the age of 15, sharing Navarro’s virtuosic technique and brilliance of invention. His sound was warm and round, and notably consistent across the full range of the instrument. He could articulate every note, even at very fast tempos which seemed to present no difficulty to him; this served to enhance the impression of his speed of execution. His sense of harmony was highly developed, enabling him to deliver bold statements through complex harmonic progressions (chord changes), and embodying the linear, “algebraic” terms of bebop harmony. In addition to his up-tempo prowess, he could express himself deeply in a ballad performance.
His first recordings were with R&B bandleader Chris Powell, following which he performed with Tadd Dameron, J. J. Johnson, Lionel Hampton, and Art Blakey before forming his own group with Max Roach. The Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet was a high-water mark of the hard bop style, with all the members of the group except for bassist George Morrow contributing original songs. Brown’s trumpet was originally partnered with Harold Land’s tenor saxophone. After Land left in 1955 in order to spend more time with his wife, Sonny Rollins joined and remained a member of the group for the rest of its existence. In their hands, the bebop vernacular reached a peak of inventiveness.
The clean-living Brown escaped the influence of heroin and alcohol on the jazz world. Brown stayed away from drugs and was not fond of alcohol. Rollins, who was recovering from heroin addiction, said that “Clifford was a profound influence on my personal life. He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.”
The sound of this broadcast gets up to speed after a creaky start, and after about a minute and a-half it settles in. Small price to pay for what became a historic gig – one from a career that certainly conjured up a whole catalog of “what-if’s”.
Relax and enjoy.