Joy Spring Review: Clifford Brown

When I first heard the recording of ‘Joy Spring’ by trumpeter Clifford Brown I was struck not only by his creative and controlled playing but by the originality of the composition itself. Later, when I had caught up with more of his recordings (for they were difficult to acquire in England at that time) I realized that he was the composer of many unique melodies that were part of jazz rather than the rich popular music of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s which jazz musicians mostly chose for improvisation. “Joy Spring” is a happy tune and Brownie was a happy player who was clean living and a jazz giant from the beginning of his short career. He was killed in a car crash and coupled with the earlier death of Fats Navarro a vacuum was left which Miles Davis filled. Davis was not a happy man and he took jazz in a different direction, one that I think was ultimately detrimental.

‘Joy Spring’ is a complex tune that sounds simple and has a bridge which is a challenge to improvise on melodically though Brownie has no problem. The Quintet had Harold Land on tenor, George Morrow on bass, Richie Powell on piano (brother of the genius Bud Powell) and Max Roach on drums. Powell died with Brown in the car crash. Warning! This is adult music and not for those who like the warbling, tinkling and emptiness of Rush Limbaugh’s pal, Reggie Dwight.

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