“When Brownie stood up and took his first solos,” recalled critic Ira Gitler, “I nearly fell off my seat in the control room. The power, range, and brilliance together with the warmth and invention was something I hadn’t heard since Fats Navarro.”
Clifford Brown was influenced and encouraged by Fats Navarro, sharing Navarro’s virtuosic technique and brilliance of invention. His sound was warm and round, and notably consistent across the full range of the instrument. He could articulate every note, even at very fast tempos which seemed to present no difficulty to him; this served to enhance the impression of his speed of execution. His sense of harmony was highly developed, enabling him to deliver bold statements through complex harmonic progressions (chord changes), and embodying the linear, “algebraic” terms of bebop harmony. In addition to his up-tempo prowess, he could express himself deeply in a ballad performance.
Brown’s phenomenal playing, as well as his straight and narrow lifestyle, earned him celebrity in the jazz world at a very young age. His sobriety was uncommon in jazz at the time, and his focus and discipline presented a contrast from the sort of drug-fueled life that the iconic Charlie Parker espoused.
Trumpeter Clifford Brown was 25 years old when he was killed in a car accident on the way to a gig in 1956. Although Brown’s career was cut so tragically short, he created a significant recorded output during the four years of his recording career, he put out some of the most famous jazz recordings ever. His technical agility, combined with heartfelt expression, made his the defining sound of the style known as hard bop.
“Clifford was a profound influence on my personal life. He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.” -Sonny Rollins