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Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter Hardcover – April 13, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195100832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195100839
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,219,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hollis Burridge on May 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For those interested in more details of Brown's life and some insight into his character and musical discipline, this is a valuable source. Discussions of musical examples are often naive and somewhat inaccurate, but the book is interesting for the informative quotes from musicians and friends and an entertaining read for fans of the late Clifford Brown.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Romanik on November 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
To my knowledge, this is the only full biography of Clifford Brown ever written. It covers his entire life, from his birth, through his Blue Flame days, all the way to his historical work with Max Roach. The book also includes 8 or so pages of pictures in the middle, which is great for those of you whom haven't seen brownie, and a nearly complete discography in the back of the book. Simply put, Clifford Brown is one of the best jazz trumpeters of all time (my favorite, personally), and quite possibly the most tragic loss in jazz history. Any jazz musicians, Clifford fans, or general jazz aficionados should check this book out if they are looking to learn about one of the greats.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Catalano's book about Clifford Brown fails to convey much more than lame summary. The reader receives a readable account of the trumpeter's short life, but the writing itself leaves much to be desired in that it's unpolished, redundant, chatty, and rarely profound. (And it's got typos to boot!) How about this telling detail of Brown's stint in an R&B band? "Clifford Brown and Vance Wilson were quite close and got the kind of education that only comes from being on the road. One time, recalled Wilson, 'We were in Wildwood [New Jersey]. Clifford had never eaten raw clams and neither had I. So we dared each other. We went over to this counter where they were serving them, but we didn't know how to eat them.' They proceeded to put sauce on the clams and started to chew them, failing to notice other eaters who were 'slurping' them. Their exaggerated chewing made everyone laugh" (Catalano 62). Catalano's choice of quotations, in my opinion, is very suspect throughout the entire book. It's as though he's a high-school-essay-writing-novice trying to round out a paper and show that's he read a thing or two or interviewed someone or another, as the case may be. Ok, the book does contain some analysis of Brown's music, and provided that not much else has been written of the trumpeter, I suppose the book merits a cursory glance. But be prepared for some dull, over-accessible, easy-reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Clifford Brown had one of the most beautiful trumpet tones in all of modern jazz, and technique that other players would die for. He was not your "typical" (as portrayed to the masses) jazz musician - he didn't drink, smoke, or use drugs; he had a family and a good marriage; he worked hard at his craft. The tragedy is that he was killed in a car crash at the age of 25 at the height of his powers. Even by then though, he had recorded a number of albums establishing himself as one of the greats in the business.

Catalano's book competently traces Brownie's life, from the beginnings in Wilmington, Delaware, to his days with the Lionel Hampton band, early sideman dates in NYC, gigs in LA and Chicago, and finally the formation of the Brown-Max Roach Quintet with Harold Land and then Sonny Rollins on tenor. Catalano is a musician so is able to analyze Brownie's performances and recordings, which he does well, but the life history of the man is told somewhat blandly. We finish the book with a good skeletal outline of Brown's life and career, but much of the meat seems missing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian Schiff on January 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Clifford Brown really was 'too good to be true'...didn't drink,do drugs...incredible jazz musician.Nick Catalano really

does an "impossible job" in telling the story of the great trumpeter who died tragically way before his time-and Catalano's anaysis of Brown's recordings makes the case that Brown is a man who "coulda been king"(even though he sorta was anyway).

.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By saxophobe on February 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
At under 200 pages, this biography is as brief as Clifford Brown's tragically shortened life. Other reviewers have pointed out its faults: the writing is pedestrian and interspersed with minor annoyances (to cite one that grated on me, the author inexplicably and repeatedly refers to the well-known Pacific Jazz label as Pacific COAST Jazz). Worse than this is the work's inability to convey any meaningful insight into Clifford's music. Nonetheless, Catalano did at least one thing extraordinarily well, selecting as his subject one of the most brilliant of all jazz improvisers and, with his death at 25 in 1956, one of the most tragic.

The author places Brown's early development in the milieu of the economically poor but culturally vibrant Black community of Wilmington, Delaware and traces his life from his birth into a large family in 1930 through his studies on trumpet and piano, the auto accident that sidelined him for a year in his late teens, his early forays as a working jazz and rhythm and blues musician, and his rapid ascent through the jazz ranks of bands of Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, and on to the pinnacle of 1950s small group jazz creativity in the quintet he co-led with drummer Max Roach. I believe most readers will learn much that they did not know about Brown, for example, the severe physical problems that continued to dog him even after the long convalescence from the aforementioned car accident.

Despite the uninspired story-telling, the power of Clifford's extraordinary life still shines through loud and clear. Even at his young age, Brown was beginning by his example to turn the tide of drinking-and-drugging that bedeviled musicians following in Charlie Parker's footsteps, an example revived a few years later by John Coltrane and others.
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