The Clifford Brown/Max Roach Emarcy Albums – Mosaic Records MRLP 3004 – Four 180gm audiophile LPs (mono) – 1954-1956 – (Avail. thru Mosaic Records www.mosaicrecords.com) ****½:
(Clifford Brown, trumpet; Max Roach, drums; Richie Powell, piano; George Morrow, bass; Harold Land or Sonny Rollins (record #4), tenor sax)
The death of a gifted musical prodigy at a very young age is a blow that many times takes generations to recover from. When the artist was not self destructive, and passes away through no fault of his own, it makes the loss even more wrenching. Clifford Brown left us on June 26, 1956 from a car accident that also took the life of Bud Powell’s brother, Richie. Time stood still in the jazz community at that time and many could argue that the loss to jazz trumpetry can still be felt today in a historical sense. Could Clifford have had the same effect on jazz that Miles Davis later did? What direction would his playing have taken? Would he have explored fusion and electronic jazz? We’ll never know, but one thing is certain—Clifford Brown put together in a brief three to four year period enough music and legendary potential that he is still mentioned as a jazz genius, whose discography is studied and tone envied by subsequent generations of trumpeters.
Clifford had the firepower of Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge, coupled with the lyricism of the best of the trumpet balladeers. Young trumpet players of early promise since have been mentioned as the latest potential Clifford Brown. The reality is that it is too much of a burden to take on to be compared to the master.
Clifford recorded briefly for Blue Note and Prestige, but he is most noted for his recordings for EmArcy, a subsidiary of Mercury Records. Through their later Japanese import division, his entire EmArcy recordings were issued in a prized (and now hard to come by) box set, Brownie. Also the individual albums from his EmArcy years have been issued on CD.
However, this holiday season, the collectors’ label Mosaic Records has chosen to re-issue the Clifford Brown/Max Roach quintet sessions, recorded between 1954-1956 at both the Capitol Records studios in New York and Los Angeles. They have returned to the original analog masters and remastered them, pressing them on 180 gram vinyl at the Record Technology Inc. plant in California. The mastering was done by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, in New York City.
As one who owns the Brownie box set as well as the individual CDs, I was curious to see if this possibly could be the definitive issue of this material both for audiophile quality, but also for the historical value that the liner notes by Bob Blumenthal, and the booklet photos from legendary photographers, Francis Wolff and Chuck Stewart, might provide.
Upon listening to the pristine vinyl, I came away convinced that once again for the warmth and soundstage that LPs provide, that I could swear that I was hearing Brownie’s power and lyricism, and Max’s inimitable stick work with “new ears.” The keyboard strike of Richie Powell, the steady woody pluck of George Morrow, and either the cool blowing of Harold Land, or the mature hard bop tone of Sonny Rollins at the age of 26, are all there in stunning acoustics. To hear seminal music recorded well over a half century ago, sounding even more fresh and vibrant today, is a real aural treat.
The albums covered in this set – Brown and Roach, Inc., Clifford Brown & Max Roach, Study in Brown, and Clifford Brown & Max Roach at Basin Street (studio recording) – helped bring out the birth of hard bop, and are among the best small group recordings one can own. They include the masterpieces, “Joy Spring,” “Daahoud,” “Jordu,” and “Delilah,” for which Clifford is most celebrated, as well as treatment of standards of the day. You will also find less well known compositions from pianist Richie Powell, (“Powell’s Prances,” “Time,” and “Jacqui”) that show the maturity and swing of Richie at that young stage of his life, and the sadness today that we could not have heard the direction his music would have taken due to his death in the auto accident with Brown.
Luckily for jazz lovers, we still have Sonny Rollins to savor, and Max Roach and Harold Land had long and distinguished careers. However, for their brief time period together, we still can marvel at the craftsmanship and flair that Clifford, Max, and company brought out that helped change the direction of jazz well into the future. With the timely purchase of this piece of jazz history (only 2500 pressings will be made), jazz lovers can experience the original analog mono masters brought up to today’s exacting audiophile standards in a gorgeous box set with liner notes and period photos to enhance the aural bliss that this box set will bring to your home. It is certain to bring much listening pleasure this holiday season and for years to come.
Side A: Sweet Clifford, (I Don’t Stand a) Ghost of a Chance With You, Stompin’ at the Savoy
Side B: I’ll String Along With You, Mildama, Darn That Dream, I Get a Kick Out of You
Side A: Delilah, Parisian Thoroughfare, The Blues Walk
Side B: Daahoud, Joy Spring, Jordu, What Am I Here For?
Side A: Cherokee, Jacqui, Swingin’, Land’s End
Side B: George’s Dilemma, Sandu, Gerkin for Perkin, If I Love Again, Take the “A” Train
Side A: What is This Thing Called Love?, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, I’ll Remember April
Side B: Powell’s Prances, Time, The Scene is Clean, Gertrude’s Bounce
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