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Underrated Jazz Great

March 2023
1min read

The Complete Blue Note and Pacific Jazz Recordings

Blue Note/Pacific Jazz, boxed set of four CDs, $66.98 . CODE: BAT-56

THE JAZZ TRUMPETER CLIFFORD BROWN was only twenty-six when he died in a highway accident in 1956, but already he was a master who could play warmly and furiously at once, sending out a stream of triplets at breakneck tempo without losing his intimate tone. He falls between two other giants of fifties trumpet: He was a hard-bop player more lyrical than the speedy Gillespie and less subdued than Miles Davis, a lost genius admired and copied ever since by a cult of trumpeters from Lee Morgan to Freddie Hubbard to Wynton Marsalis. Before he formed his famous quintet with the drummer Max Roach, he did the work collected here, for Blue Note and Pacific Jazz, with the saxophonist Lou Donaldson, the band of the drummer Art Blakey, and others.

“And now, that great trumpet sensation Clifford Brown,” shouts the emcee at Birdland on disc three, the first of two covering an appearance with the Blakey band in 1954. The group doesn’t disappoint, especially on tunes by its pianist, Horace Silver, and on Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet vehicle, “A Night in Tunisia,” which Brown eagerly attacks. “Yes, sir, I’m gonna stay with the youngsters,” Blakey says with approval of Brown and his band before the final number.

When a Village Voice interviewer recently asked the saxophonist Sonny Rollins to choose between a Clifford Brown CD and one by today’s young trumpeter of the moment, Roy Hargrove, he chose “Brownie” but cautioned, “We have to give Roy a chance to develop.” The two recordings were by trumpeters almost exactly the same age.

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