One day after the melancholy mood of Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours”, I was fortunate enough to discover the instrumental equivalent. And when I say discover, I truly mean discover, as this was my first exposure to jazz trumpet master Clifford Brown on the 1956 album, “Clifford Brown with Strings”. Rated by gq.com as the 6th greatest jazz album of all time, this collection of classics takes me right back to the same place I left a day before.
Raised in Delaware and perfecting his craft in Philadelphia, Clifford Brown was recognized by artists like Dizzy Gillespie for his technical expertise and beautiful tone. On a song we all recognize, “Blue Moon”, his treatment of this melody re-opened my eyes to the beauty of instrumental leads and our ability to fill in the blanks with our own memories of the lyrics. For me, other highlights on this beautiful album were “When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “Stardust”, a song that is very meaningful to me as I relate it to my son and his musically talented friends.
Unlike many of his peers, Clifford Brown was never consumed by the temptation of substance. However, sadly like many of his peers, his life ended way too early. Driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike late one evening, he and two others were tragically killed the same year this album was created. To this day, he remains a highly rated and influential jazz powerhouse whose music continues to thrive. I’m grateful for opening this door, this was exactly the kind of musical exposure I was aspiring to as I began this journey.