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Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter Hardcover – April 13, 2000
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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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Top customer reviews
as to why I hadn't heard of this genious before. Nevertheless I was imidiately taken by his beautiful execution & ideas.
When I found out a book had been written of his life I searched & searched for this book. I was told it was out of print & later found out that the university library here had a copy. And then I found it on the internet & ordered it. Like a little boy I received it with excitement. This was well worth reading & very informative. I enjoyed reading about my genious & have lamented to this day his passing in a tragdic car accident at such a young age, barely starting to live. All jazz lovers need, yes, need to read this fine book.
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. He was extraordinarily hard-working, humble, beloved by friends and colleagues (nearly all of them, though there was the exception of the associate of Hampton who tried to knife Brown during his overseas tour with the band in the early 1950s), and mature beyond his years. These traits make his death, along with jazz pianist Richie Powell and Powell's wife Nancy, in a car accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike all the more tragic, as here was a man whose personal virtues matched his extraordinary musical achievements.
One finishes the book wishing it had been much better, but this is probably as good a retelling of Brown's life as we will get. Most of Brown's family and associates are now dead, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Brown's widow Larue Brown Watson among them. The last three surviving siblings of Brown, each of whom Catalano interviewed, are now gone: Google searches reveal that Leon R. Brown and Rella O. (Brown) Bray died in 2009 and Geneva Brown Griffin died in 2010. Their long lives add a sad postscript to the story, the possibility that but for that fateful night so long ago, Clifford, the youngest of eight children, might have lived a long, productive, and exemplary life right into the new millenium.
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