[Dixielandjazz] The improvisational change - was cool school

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Sun, 11 Aug 2002 13:27:24 -0400

john Petters wrote: (polite snip)

> I can't see what the fuss about Clifford Brown is about. To me he sounds
> square.

To my ears, Clifford Brown was an absolute genius. In his very short jazz
career, he influenced virtually all modern trumpet players during the last half
of the 20th century. He played "hard bop" and was stylistically a successor to
Fats Navarro, and well on the way to taking the music to another level.

Several things he did better than any else at the time:

1. He attacked every note, tremendous energy, while making it look easy.

2. He broke new improvisational ground with different harmonics on vertical
improvisation. Very different methods of going from chord to chord from say
Gillespie or Miles.

3. He had a beautiful fat sound

4. He was extraordinary when playing ballads, sometimes a horizontal

All the Dixieland horn players in New York City were aware of him. We used to
tell each other to catch Brown in Philadelphia, or Wilmington if you had a
casual gig that way. Because he blew everyone else away, including Gillespie.
We were in awe of him.

Of course what many folks don't realize about him is that he was a sweetheart
of a man.  Did not smoke or take dope in any form. Rarely drank alcohol. As a
local hero to kids in Wilmington Delaware, he advised them to get their
education, before trying to be an athlete or musician. He had a University
degree in math and was a brilliant mathematician. He was easy to approach and a
delight to engage in conversation. He was genuinely interested in you.

That plus being a virtuoso on the axe at age 24 or so. Very rare indeed. He
died in his mid twenties, almost 50 years ago, well before his time in a tragic
automobile accident. (he was a passenger)

Of course, I am prejudiced. He was one of my heroes, and our bass player worked
with him frequently  and recorded with him, here in Philadelphia, just 20 miles
from Brown's home, the night Brown died, If you have that last record, of a jam
session, released in the 70s by Brownie's widow, Look for Ace Tesone on bass.
Ace, at 72, still gets misty when he talks about Clifford Brown and how he

Steve Barbone