The short, but amazingly prolific life of jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown will be celebrated at Westminster Church’s bi-monthly Thinking About Jazz (TAJ) series in Southwest DC on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 from 1-3:00 PM. Dr. Nick Catalano, professor of Literature and Music at Pace University, will speak about his book on Brown, “Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter.” Harmon Carey, childhood friend of Brown and executive director of the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware will also be present.
Clifford Brown was born on Oct. 30, 1930 in Wilmington, Delaware. On his thirteenth birthday his father gave him a trumpet, which he mastered quickly, playing in school bands and other musical groups. Delaware State University, despite having no music department, awarded Brown a music scholarship. After a year at Delaware studying math, Brown transferred to Maryland State College where he played in and composed for the school’s well-known 16-piece jazz band.
Brown soon began traveling to nearby Philadelphia where he sat in with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, and Charlie “Bird” Parker, all of whom liked to take credit for discovering his amazing talent. Also noted early in Brown’s life were qualities that separated him from the stereotypes of jazz musicians in that he was known to be kind and humble, and also lived clean. Soon Brown moved on to Atlantic City and joined Lionel Hampton’s band, which gave him the opportunity to tour Europe and play with many of the best musicians of the day. Upon returning to the U.S. he joined the Art Blakey Quintet, which gave him the chance to play and tour with West Coast musicians. In 1954 Brown teamed up with drummer Max Roach to form the popular Brown-Roach Quintet.
Clifford Brown’s influence lives on today. He combined his unique style, which was described as “attacking every note,” with that of Charlie Parker’s bebop, the form that came to be called “hard bop.” His compositions and solos are revered by both students and contemporary jazz musicians. Saxophonist Benny Golson’s musical tribute, “I Remember Clifford,” has become a jazz standard. The tragedies in the lives of many performers often revolve around drug and alcohol excesses. Clifford Brown never indulged in either, but his playing was halted for a year after an automobile accident in 1950 and his short life ended on June 27, 1956, the result of a second automobile accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Westminster Church is located at 400 I St. SW, just a few blocks from the Waterfront stop on Metro’s green line. Parking is available in the church lot and on the street. Admission is free and a light lunch, also free, will be served. Lunch service starts at 12:30 PM, followed by the program at 1:00 PM. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions and buy Dr. Catalano’s book as well as win some door prizes. Please join us.
By: Brian Hamilton