|Also known as||"Brownie"|
October 30, 1930|
Wilmington, Delaware, United States
|Died||June 25, 1956
Bedford, Pennsylvania, United States
|Genres||Jazz, Bebop, Hard bop|
|Associated acts||Max Roach, Harold Land, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, Sarah Vaughn, Helen Merrill|
Clifford Brown (October 30, 1930 – June 26, 1956), aka "Brownie," was an influential and highly rated American jazz trumpeter. He died aged 25 in a car accident, leaving behind only four years' worth of recordings. Nonetheless, he had a considerable influence on later jazz trumpet players, including Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Valery Ponomarev, Wallace Roney, and many others. He was also a composer of note: two of his compositions, "Joy Spring" and "Daahoud", have become jazz standards.
Brown was born into a musical family in a poor neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware. His father organized his four youngest sons, including Brown, into a vocal quartet. Around age ten, Brown started playing trumpet at school after becoming fascinated with the shiny trumpet his father owned. At age thirteen, upon entering senior high, his father bought him his own trumpet and provided him with private lessons. As a junior in high school, he received lessons from Boysie Lowrey and played in "a jazz group that Lowery organized." He even began making trips to Philadelphia. Brown took pride in his neighborhood and earned a good education from Howard High.
Brown briefly attended Delaware State University as a math major, before he switched to Maryland State College which was a more prosperous musical environment. As Nick Catalano points out, Brown's trips to Philadelphia grew in frequency after he graduated highschool and entered Delaware State University; it could be said that, although his dorm was in Dover, his classroom was in Philadelphia. Brown played in the fourteen-piece, jazz-oriented, Maryland State Band. In June 1950, he was seriously injured in a car accident after a successful gig. During his year-long hospitalization, Dizzy Gillespie visited the younger trumpeter and pushed him to pursue his musical career. Brown's injuries limited him to the piano for months; he never fully recovered and would routinely dislocate his shoulder for the rest of his life. Brown moved into playing music professionally, where he quickly became one of the most highly regarded trumpeters in jazz.
He was influenced and encouraged by Fats Navarro, 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. The partnership of Brown's trumpet with Harold Land's tenor saxophone made for a very strong front line. After Land left in 1955 in order to spend more time with his wife, Sonny Rollins joined for the remainder of the group's existence. In their hands the bebop vernacular reached a peak of inventiveness.
The clean-living Brown escaped the influence of heroin on the jazz world, a model established by Charlie Parker. Clifford stayed away from drugs and was not fond of alcohol. Sonny Rollins, who was recovering from a 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."
In June 1956, immediately following a performance at a Philadelphia record store, Brown and Richie Powell embarked on a drive to Chicago for their next appearance. Powell's wife Nancy was at the wheel so that Clifford and Richie could sleep. While driving at night in the rain on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, west of Bedford, she lost control of the car and it went off the road.. All three were killed in the resulting crash. Brown is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Clifford Brown died in a car accident on the second anniversary of his marriage to his wife LaRue, which was also LaRue's 22nd birthday.
Benny Golson, who had done a stint in Lionel Hampton's band with Brown, wrote "I Remember Clifford" to honour his memory. The piece became a jazz standard, as musicians paid tribute by recording their own interpretations of it.
Helen Merrill, who recorded with Brown in 1954 (Helen Merrill, EmArcy), recorded a tribute album in 1995 entitled Brownie: Homage to Clifford Brown. The album features solos and ensemble work by trumpeters Lew Soloff, Tom Harrell, Wallace Roney, and Roy Hargrove.
Brownie Speaks, a video documentary, is the culmination of years of research by Wilmington-born jazz pianist Don Glanden, research that has included interviews with Brown's friends, family, contemporaries, and admirers. Glanden's son Brad edited these interviews, along with archival materials and newly shot video footage. The documentary premiered in 2008 at the "Brownie Speaks" Clifford Brown Symposium hosted by The University of the Arts. The three-day symposium featured performances from close friends and bandmates of Brown such as Benny Golson and Lou Donaldson and other prominent artists inspired by Brown, including Marcus Belgrave, Terence Blanchard, and John Fedchock.
With Art Blakey
With J.J. Johnson
With Helen Merrill
With Sarah Vaughan
With Sonny Rollins
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