In the early '50s, Clifford Brown was one of the most dominant trumpeters of the Hard Bop period. Nick Catalano, professor of literature and music at Pace University, has written the first book on this important artist, and it's a winner. "In addition to his artistic achievements, Brown exuded virtue and magnanimity," Catalano writes. "He wasn't just a 'nice guy'; he was much more than that." At a time when jazzmen where generally portrayed as drug addicted hustlers, Brown was the exception. He was college educated, rarely smoked or drank, and was a positive role model to other musicians. Had he not been killed in a tragic car accident at the tender age of 25, he may have altered the future of jazz. As it is, he has left a lasting impression on the art form.
Beginning with his nurturing childhood in Wilmington, Delaware, Catalano chronicles Brown's extraordinary rise as a Dizzy Gillespie-inspired upstart, to a seasoned professional who continued to practice and play R&B dates despite terrible pain from a near-fatal car accident. Catalano highlights Brown's work with heavyweights like Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, John Lewis, and Art Blakey, and his analyses of Brown's crisp trumpet style and compositions, including "Joy Spring" and "Dahooud," are detailed and entertaining. At the summit of his career, while co-leading a trailblazing combo that featured Max Roach and Sonny Rollins, Brown perished on the rain-soaked Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way to a gig in Chicago. Catalano shows that, even in death, his influence lives on in trumpeters like Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis, and in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, Sideman. If there is such a thing as a jazz saint, Clifford Brown was it. --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Publishers Weekly
Long known as the jazz trumpeters' trumpeter, Clifford Brown has yet to gain wider recognition for his influence over the development of bebop. Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1930, Brown's trumpet playing was often described as uninspired, but intense practice led to a technically superb style that was lauded by such greats as Dizzy Gillespie. The modest, unpretentious trumpeter lived an unruffled life; his great discipline offered a different model for jazz musicians long under the influence of Charlie Parker's drug abuse. Catalano, the director of performing arts at Pace University, presents Brown's abbreviated life (he died in a car crash at age 25) in a terse, matter-of-fact manner, with scrupulous attention to detail. A vivid account of his 1953 adventures with Lionel Hampton's band (which included Art Farmer and Quincy Jones) in Europe is one of the few sections that delves deeply into Brown's musical genius, describing solos and specific performances, and praising his high energy and fun approach to trading fours with Farmer. In another chapter, Catalano recalls Brown's friendship with Max Roach, paying homage to such landmark recordings as "Delilah" and "Darn That Dream." While some jazz fans may tire of the meticulous recounting of facts, true buffs will be enthralled with the honest interviews and wide breadth of research this bio offers.
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