Clifford Brown

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Clifford Brown
Brown c. 1956
Brown c. 1956
Background information
Birth nameClifford Benjamin Brown
Born(1930-10-30)October 30, 1930
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
DiedJune 26, 1956(1956-06-26) (aged 25)
Bedford, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1949–1956
Associated actsMax Roach, Harold Land, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins

Clifford Benjamin Brown[1] (October 30, 1930 – June 26, 1956) was an American jazz trumpeter. He died at the age of 25 in a car accident,[2] leaving behind four years' worth of recordings. His compositions "Sandu", "Joy Spring",[3] and "Daahoud"[4] have become jazz standards.[5] Brown won the DownBeat magazine Critics' Poll for New Star of the Year in 1954; he was inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 1972.[2]


Brown was born into a musical family in Wilmington, Delaware. His father organized his four sons, including Clifford, into a vocal quartet. Around age ten, Brown started playing trumpet at school after becoming fascinated with the shiny trumpet his father owned. At age thirteen, his father bought him a trumpet and provided him with private lessons. In high school, Brown received lessons from Robert Boysie Lowery and played in "a jazz group that Lowery organized", making trips to Philadelphia.[6]

Brown briefly attended Delaware State University[7] as a math major before he switched to Maryland State College. His trips to Philadelphia grew in frequency after he graduated from high school and entered Delaware State University. He played in the fourteen-piece, jazz-oriented Maryland State Band. In June 1950, he was injured in a car accident after a performance. While in the hospital, he was visited by Dizzy Gillespie, who encouraged him to pursue a career in music.[8] Injuries restricted him to playing the piano.[6][2]

Brown was influenced and encouraged by Fats Navarro.[8] His first recordings were with R&B bandleader Chris Powell.[8] He worked with Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton and J. J. Johnson, before forming a band with Max Roach. Brown's trumpet was partnered with Harold Land's tenor saxophone. After Land left in 1955, Sonny Rollins joined and remained a member of the group for the rest of its existence.[2]

Over the next eight years Roach’s stature grew as he recorded with a host of other emerging artists (including Bud Powell, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk) and co-founded Debut, one of the first artist-owned labels, with Charles Mingus. Roach participated in the legendary bebop summit concert that produced the Jazz at Massey Hall recordings of 1953. Later that year, he relocated to the Los Angeles area, where he replaced Shelly Manne in the popular Lighthouse All Stars.[9]

Brown stayed away from drugs and was not fond of alcohol.[2] Rollins, who was recovering from heroin addiction, said that "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."[10]

“l’m sorry I never got to know him better. Not that it necessarily follows that one who plays that beautifully is also a marvelous person, but I think one can discern in Clifford Brown’s case that the particular kind of extraordinary playing was linked to an equally special human being. You only would have had to hear Max Roach, Art Farmer, Sonny Rollins, or Gigi Gryce talk about him to substantiate this view. Photographs of Clifford Brown reveal some of that inner self; the shots in which he is depicted in a playing attitude show his intensity, that utter concentration and total connection with his instrument.” Ira Gitler[11]


In June 1956, Brown and Richie Powell embarked on a drive to Chicago for their next appearance. Powell's wife Nancy was at the wheel so that Clifford and Richie could sleep. While driving at night in the rain on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, west of Bedford, she is presumed to have lost control of the car, which went off the road, killing all three in the resulting crash.[12] Brown is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery, in Wilmington, Delaware.[13]


On June 26, 1954, in Los Angeles, Brown married Emma LaRue Anderson (1933–2005), who he called "Joy Spring". The two had been introduced by Max Roach. They actually celebrated their marriage vows three times, partly because their families were on opposite coasts and partly because of their differing religions – Brown was Methodist and Anderson was Catholic. They were first married in a private ceremony June 26, 1954, in Los Angeles (on Anderson's 21st birthday). They again celebrated their marriage in a religious setting on July 16, 1954 – the certificate being registered in Los Angeles County – and a reception was held at the Tiffany Club where the Art Pepper/Jack Montrose Quintet had been replaced a few days earlier by the Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Red Mitchell. Anderson's parish priest followed them to Boston, where on August 1, 1954 they performed their marriage ceremony at Saint Richards Church in the Roxbury neighborhood.[14]

His nephew, drummer Rayford Griffin (né Rayford Galen Griffin; born 1958), modernized Brown's music on his 2015 album Reflections of Brownie.[15] Brown's grandson, Clifford Benjamin Brown III (born 1982), plays trumpet on one of the tracks, "Sandu".


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]


1988: Let's Get Lost – "Joy Spring" and "Daahoud"


  1. ^ Catalano, Nick (2000). Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-19-510083-2.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Clifford Brown | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  3. ^ "Jazz Standards Songs and Instrumentals (Joy Spring)". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  4. ^ "Jazz Standards Songs and Instrumentals (Daahoud)". Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  5. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (2004). The Rough Guide to Jazz. Rough Guides. p. 102. ISBN 1-84353-256-5.
  6. ^ a b Catalano, Nick (2000). Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 208. ISBN 0-19-510083-2.
  7. ^ Carson, Charles (July 10, 2010). "Clifford Brown's Philadelphia". Scribd. p. 5. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Rosenthal, David (1992). Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955–1965. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505869-0.
  9. ^ Bob, Blumenthal. "Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet". Mosaic Records - Home for Jazz fans!. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  10. ^ "Brown, Clifford". Archived from the original on 2013-08-30.
  11. ^ Ira, Gitler. "Liner Notes: Mosaic Blue Note Recordings". Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  12. ^ Catalano, Nick (2001-01-01). Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195144000.
  13. ^ "Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, cemetery campaign to begin". delawareonline. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  14. ^ "Clifford Brown in Los Angeles," by Eddie Spencer Meadows, PhD; born 1939; Black Music Research Journal, published by the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press, Vol. 31, No. 1, Spring 2011, pps. 45–63; JSTOR; OCLC 729620529, 6733333114, 778359559; ISSN 0276-3605
  15. ^ "Rayford Griffin: Reflections of Brownie". Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  16. ^ Records, Mosaic (2021-05-05). "Clifford Brown - Mosaic Records". Retrieved 2021-07-21.


External links[edit]