Clifford Brown was three years younger than Lee Konitz, two years Horace Silver's junior and one year Benny Golson's. All the mentioned musicians are alive, some if them still going strong, but it's painfully difficult to accept that one of the best musicians in jazz history has left us for nearly 6 decades.
As they say, The Good Die Young, but it is the time for celebration rather than mourning and lament. Today's Clifford Brown's birthday and Take the "A" Train commemorates the short and once blooming life of Clifford Brown by playing two tapes from David W. Niven's archives. Throughout the tapes, Niven injects personal observations and speculations, anecdotes, history and touching quotes which makes the tapes even more precious.
The Memorial Album happened to be one of my first (and due to conditions of life in Iran, one of the very few) acquired jazz CDs. The album contains two early sessions, one a quintet and the other a sextet, led by Brownie. However, Niven's tapes are not exactly track by track replica of the Blue Note release. In order to give a survey of Brownie's recording during the summer of 53, Niven has mixed takes from Brownie Speaks (Applause LP) and Memorial (LP edition).
The first line-up on this tape features Brownie along with Lou Donaldson (alto sax), Elmo Hope (p), Percy Heath (b) and Philly Joe Jones (d). After four tunes, you'll hear some unrelated, nevertheless good music from sessions led by Tadd Dameron and J. J. Johnson, before returning to Memorial concept with the sextet, featuring Gigi Gryce, Charlie Rouse, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Art Blakey.
The second tape starts with Brown-Gigi Gryce Quintet's first take on Baby, and after that, which chronologically speaking means a week later, the format returns to quartet for the rest of the tape. The session is officially released by Prestige, as you can see in above picture.
It is a French date and the quartet members are some first-rate local musicians including Henri Renaud (p), Pierre Michelot (b) and the Paris-based American drummer Benny Bennett.
Almost one minute to the end of side A something strange happens and an incomplete Lester Young tune, probably from another tape, crops up. Ignore it (if you can ignore Prez at all!) and the tape will be automatically reversed to the B side.
If interested in multiple Parisian sessions, Vogue has made this side of life easier for us by issuing a Complete Paris Sessions, covering September 28, 1953 to October 15, 1953 which can be found on Amazon and other commercial venues.
Speaking of jazz in Paris, a few month back I compiled a list of my favorite jazz in Paris recordings. You can explore the list here: Paris 25
Continuing with the tape, on the B side you will hear some homecoming recordings after Browne left Paris and landed in NY. The result is a good example of early legendary Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet (with Harold Land).