Clifford Brown is my all-time favorite jazz trumpet player. If you’ve never heard Clifford Brown, I suggest you check him out. He played quite a bit with Max Roach and they had a similar approach to music and the art of jazz. While Max Roach lived out a full and complete life until he died in 2007 at the age of 83, Clifford Brown’s life was tragically cut short at age 25 in 1956. Even so, Clifford Brown’s influence on jazz music and especially the hard bop genre he helped to create cannot be overestimated.
What I have always been impressed with in Clifford Brown’s music is the way that he moves through the intensive chord changes that are such a part of hard bop music with such intention and fluidity. He bounces through the changes and remains nimble and is able to speak with full musical sentences at a time when a lot of hard bop was speaking with incomplete phrases and short bursts of musical speech. Listen to a piece like “Joy Spring” and you can hear the way that he flawlessly moves through both chord and key changes with seeming ease. Even the 12-bar blues structure is transformed into something new and different in “Sandu”.
I have always marvelled at the way that certain people can embrace not just the idea of change, but the changes themselves. Clifford Brown was a leader in the move from bebop to hard bop and did it in his late teens and early 20’s. It’s an amazing thing to consider.