Saturday Night Tunes: Study in Brown

Sorry this is late, and brief, but I’ve been on the road most of the day. Clifford Brown died in a car crash in 1956 at the far too young age of 26, having been making jazz records for a scant 4 years. Despite his tragically short career and life, he’s rightly remembered as one of the all-time great bebop and hard bop trumpeters. His virtuosity with the instrument is almost unbelievable, and his collaboration with drummer Max Roach was every bit as dynamic a hard bop pairing as the Art Blakey-Horace Silver combo that became the Jazz Messengers.

Study in Brown (released in 1955) is a real gem; aside from Brown on trumpet and Roach on drums, the album features tenor saxophonist Harold Land, George Morrow on bass, and Richie Powell, whose life would be cut short in the same crash that killed Brown, on piano. Since it’s late, let’s get right to the music:

“Cherokee” is a jazz standard, but this is for a lot of people (me included) the best version of it ever recorded, mostly because of Brown’s brilliance:

“Jacqui,” written by Powell:

“Swingin’,” written by Brown:

“Land’s End,” written by — wait for it — Harold Land:

“Sandu,” also written by Brown, and which I actually kind of like even better than “Cherokee”:

Billy Strayhorn’s classic, “Take the A Train.” I can’t find a YouTube of this one, so I’m punting and throwing in a live recording of the tune that Brown made with Sonny Rollins on tenor rather than Land, from the album Clifford Brown at the Cotton Club 1956. The rest of the personnel are the same. Brown’s version of this tune is a little more…energetic, let’s say, than Duke Ellington’s was:

That’s not meant to knock Ellington, because this:

is pretty awesome too.

Study in Brown also includes two more by Brown, “George’s Dilemma” and “Gerkin for Perkin,” plus the standard “If I Love Again.”

While we’re on the subject of “Take the A Train,” check out this live (1964) version by Charles Mingus and his sextet, including an incredible ~5 minute bass clarinet solo by Eric Dolphy. This kind of thing is why YouTube is awesome:

Author: DWD

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