Brownie Speaks: The Complete Blue Note Recordings
The 2014 Clifford Brown anthology Brownie Speaks: The Complete Blue Note Recordings compiles all of the recordings the influential jazz trumpeter made for the storied jazz label during the '50s. These are albums he recorded after his initial Powell sessions and before his Mercury dates. Included here are 1953's Jay Jay Johnson with Clifford Brown, 1953's New Star on the Horizon, 1956's New Faces New Sounds with Lou Donaldson, and the fiery 1954 live album A Night at Birdland with the Art Blakey Quintet. Also included throughout are the various bonus tracks attached to each session. A mere 22 years old when he embarked on this short four-year stint with Blue Note, Brown was already a jazz titan. Technically dazzling on the trumpet and blessed with a wealth of improvisational creativity steeped in the traditions of his forebears (namely Fats Navarro and Dizzy Gillespie), Brown was a man unparalleled on the jazz scene in the 1950s. Whether playing at burning speeds, as he does on "Cherokee," or digging deep into a slow ballad like "Easy Living" (both off New Star on the Horizon), Brown could articulate his ideas with devastating clarity. While all of the albums featured here are superb, must-hear examples of Brown's work, it is his live Birdland date as a member of drummer Art Blakey's group that reveals the most of what would become his legacy. The first incarnation of what would soon be known as Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the group included such influential players as the bluesy saxophonist Donaldson and the gospel-tinged pianist Horace Silver. From the pyrotechnic bop opener "Wee Dot" through Brown's gorgeous rendition of "Once in a While" and the rollicking Silver original "Quicksilver," the album is a masterful display of untethered artistry, bristling with a primordial energy that heralded the birth of the hard bop era. Unfathomably, only two weeks later, the group would disband for lack of bookings. Brown would, of course, go on to join drummer Max Roach in their legendary quintet, only to die in a car crash in 1956 at the age of 25. Ultimately, though there is implicit tragedy in his death at such a young age, with endless creative possibilities ahead of him, Brown had long found his voice, as evidenced by the work collected on Brownie Speaks.