Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet - Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet Clifford Brown & Max Roach (EmArcy 1954)

One of the must-haves. Clifford Brown & Max Roach is a brilliant, textbook example of balanced storytelling, responsive interplay and vital, fluent swing.

Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet - Clifford Brown & Max Roach


Clifford Brown (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor saxophone), Richard Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass), Max Roach (drums)


on August 2, 3 & 6, 1954 at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles


as MC 26043 in 1954

Track listing

Side A:
Parisian Thoroughfare
Side B:
Joy Spring

Straight from the short-lived 10-inch era of the early/mid-fifties, Clifford Brown & Max Roach. Five tunes, two instant classics and standards, 30 minutes of sizzling, masterful modern jazz. What more could one ask for? If you can’t say it in a mere half hour, you better cut it out… To be sure, when EmArcy switched to the 12-inch format in the slipstream of bigger labels like Columbia, three tunes of the August 1954 session were added. Max Roach and rising trumpet star Clifford Brown initially formed a quintet with, respectively, Sonny Stitt and Teddy Edwards.

The quintet finally gelled into a subtle, driving cooperative unit with Harold Land, who was relatively unknown at that time but immediately made his name through his excellent work with Brown/Roach. Finally, Land was followed up by Sonny Rollins, who completed a notorious outfit that came to its abrupt end in 1956 when Clifford Brown and pianist Richard Powell were tragically killed in a car crash.

The stays of some jazz legends on planet Earth were cut short much too soon. Charlie Christian, Scott LaFaro and… Clifford Brown. But the impact of these searchers for new vistas has been penetrating and everlasting. Clifford Brown displayed a balanced vitality that is rarely if ever matched. He transformed tragedy into a smile. His music comes out cleanly and gaily through his horn. Bit of a heir to Louis Armstrong, if you ask me… A bittersweetly happy, completely authoritative virtuoso. The Crown Prince, if you will.

Max Roach was thirty years old at the time of recording Clifford Brown & Max Roach, veteran of bop that took the revolutionary rudiments of Kenny Clarke and fulfilled the quintet format with Charlie Parker, a blaze of new accents, motives, melodicism. He’s the glue of the quintet, which delivers an unusual brew of virility, balance and fluent swing. Once Delilah is underway for barely one minute, you know you’re in for a treat. As in a bee colony, proceedings go as planned, there’s a definite sense of order while all members dart this and that way frivolously and seemingly at random. Roach succinctly supports the movement of the changes, Morrow and Powell provide the solid framework for the soloists, a simultaneously smooth and driving flow and a paradise for Harold Land, who takes a wonderful first shot, simultaneously at ease and insistent.

Clifford Brown is the queen bee. Daahoud is his habitat. Daahoud was an instant classic. Uptempo bouncing ball… A wave of fresh air, springtime breeze accompanying the swarm of bees at the country farm… Clifford Brown is the frivolous bee, giving birth to lean flights in the upper register that serve as the apex of a brilliant package of honey notes, deceptively simple, fluent phrasing, relentless swing that makes us very… happy. His attack is ferocious yet smooth. The ideas keep coming. Brown plays a Socrates-que discours of question and answer with himself and talks shop with his partners, intuitively, a game of hi-level split seconds. Max Roach hits the pocket almost Blakey-style, a kick start to the soloist’s story on the one hand, a crash cymbal bash to signal the next in line on the other hand.

Talkin’ about Spring. Joy Spring cannot be left unmentioned. The other instant classic, the lovely melody that Clifford Brown wrote for his wife, nicknamed “Joy Spring”. Don’t you want to be called Joy Spring? Joy Spring, you’re the sweetest… Joy Spring, dinner is ready!… Joy Spring, I warmed your spot, please come on up… None of that seven-year itch with husband and Joy Spring! The mid-tempo, relaxed bounce underlines Brown’s affectionate, sweet but tart words of love.

Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare offers more vital features by Brown and Roach, whose effective simplicity as a soloist is admirable. Roach plays like a horn player. Richard Powell, brother of Bud, hooks up with the strikingly boogie-woogie-ish drive of the bop anthem. The quintet rounds off the 10inch platter with Duke Jordan’s contagious blues-based Jordu, a version as lovely and enticing as a Lotus flower. It is as if these men contaminated each other with the fever of nuanced storytelling, virile swing, fluidity, ideas… Clifford Brown And Max Roach is a very “ill” album indeed! Not to mention “dope” or “master” or whatever youngsters call spectacular these days. Something I’m not aware of I’m sure. I’m old-fashioned and I don’t mind it…

Lou Donaldson - New Faces New Sounds

Lou Donaldson New Faces New Sounds (Blue Note 1954)

Lou Donaldson’s New Faces New Sounds plays a considerable part in the evolution of hard bop, not only for its introduction of future trumpet star Clifford Brown. As journalist Marc “Jazzwax” Myers suggested, something’s going on with Bellarosa, the last track of the Blue Note 10 inch, which was recorded on June 9, 1953.

Lou Donaldson - New Faces New Sounds


Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone), Clifford Brown (trumpet), Elmo Hope (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)


on June 9, 1953 at WOR Studios, New York


as BLP 5030 in 1954

Track listing

Side A:
Carvin’ The Rock
You Go To My Head
Side B:
Brownie Speaks

Considering hard bop, you can’t get around alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. The Charlie Parker-influenced saxophonist steered jazz into different directions twice during the fifties and sixties. Donaldson is best known by the general public for his commercial output during his second stint with Blue Note in the mid and late sixties, when he recorded a string of soul jazz and jazz funk albums that not altogether met the criteria of jazz snobs but remain popular to this day. Small wonder, because they distilled a juicy, crafty brew out of black contemporary music like boogaloo and James Brown. Although Donaldson’s ‘commercial’ jazz has its occasional superficial moments, I think it has been playing an essential role in keeping jazz lively and fresh for jazz buffs and attractive for newcomers who might otherwise be scared off by the so-called ‘difficult’ art form of jazz.

Earlier on, in the mid-fifties, Lou Donaldson’s intuition for what could give jazz a lift had been spot-on as well. Instead of recording frequently, Donaldson made miles on the chitlin’ circuit, drenching his modern jazz style with r&b, a move that reached out to the urban Afro-American community, coinciding with the remarkably classy taste that community had back then. As soon as Donaldson went back into the studio in 1957, he laid down the bluesy, hard-driving results on albums as Wailing With Lou and Blues Walk, as well as organist Jimmy Smith’s Jimmy Smith Trio + L.D.

The North Carolina-born altoist was part of the second generation of bebop players that followed the footsteps of Parker, Powell, Gillespie and Monk. Donaldson recorded with Monk as early as 1947. He played in the groups of Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver and Blue Mitchell in the early fifties and recorded with Milt Jackson in 1952. Then, on February 21, 1954, Donaldson appeared on the Art Blakey Quintet’s seminal Live At Birdland I & II, including Horace Silver and Clifford Brown.

The key figures of hard bop, or mid/late fifties mainstream jazz are Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Miles Davis. Horace Silver incorporated into modern jazz catchy (but very intricate) tunes imbued with gospel and blues feeling, Art Blakey the big beat on 2/4 and effective fills/bombs as opposed to interval-filled rhythm, (meanwhile introducing a host of young, future jazz stars) and Miles Davis the stress on expression (less is more) and dark-hued colours instead of a speedy flight through astringent changes. As early as the early fifties, Silver experimented with new song structures and Davis’ recording of, for instance, Dig, hinted at things to come. The mid-fifties tunes and albums of this influential threesome, especially Silver’s compositions The Preacher and Doodlin’ (From Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers, February 6, 1955), Art Blakey’s Live At Bohemia-album (November 23, 1955), Miles Davis’ composition Walkin’ (April 29, 1954) and the trumpeter’s work with his first great quintet of 1956 (That quintet consisting of Davis, Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones is considered a key figure in itself) are defining moments and pointed the way to a music that, even if it was indebted to bebop, broke out of the straightjacket of its song structures and uptempo rhythm in favor of a mid-tempo, minor-keyed and more urban kind of jazz.

Arguably, the invention of new musical paths (and creative paths in general) is not the outcome of a ‘lightbulb’ or ‘Eureka’ moment by one or another major inventor. It’s more a gelling of spirits, the result of simultaneous experiments by like-minded artists, in this respect also including Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Sonny Clark, Cannonball Adderley et al. Hard bop wasn’t a clear-cut blueprint which everybody consciously decided to work with, it was more elusive, kind of like a coloring picture that was continuously reshaped by the distinctive colors of the modern jazz personalities. A few guys brought along the coloring picture, while the rest influenced these inventive few in the process and were essential for bringing about their visions.

Hardly a major stylistic innovator, instead Lou Donaldson is a hard bop frontrunner who colored the picture with the tastes of urban Afro-Americans while retaining the forward motion of bop. New Faces New Sounds, Donaldson’s cooperation with the burgeoning trumpet star Clifford Brown, isn’t a fully grown hard bop album yet. Even if customary breakneck speeds are largely absent, style-wise it’s bebop all the way. The group plays a faithful version of Bird’s Dewey Square and the standard You Go To My Head, is treated by Lou Donaldson the way Charlie Parker plays ballads. Lou Donaldson’s tone differs from Bird’s, it’s silky and has a slight, alluring vibrato. Donaldson’s way of phrasing possesses an attractive, sing-songy quality. A tad of charming nonchalance as well, while the inherent logic stays evident.

The years 1952-54 comprise a fascinating transitional period between bebop and hardbop. Blue Note not only introduced Lou Donaldson and Clifford Brown as ‘new faces’, the label also put a series of other players in the New Faces New Sounds-10-inch-package, such as Kenny Drew, Elmo Hope, Wynton Kelly and Gil Melle. Highly collectable jazz artifacts. New Faces New Sounds marked Clifford Brown’s recording debut, pre-dating an 11 June Prestige 10inch with Tadd Dameron (A Study In Dameronia), a J.J. Johnson date (The Eminent J.J. Johnson I & II, June 22, 1953) and his debut as a leader on August 28, New Star On The Horizon. Already very impressive, Brown was nevertheless yet to make his indelible, iconic mark with the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet in 1955.

Clifford Brown is a perfect match (if Donaldson was inspired by Charlie Parker, Brown’s indebtness to trumpeter Fats Navarro is evident) and delivers a top-notch tune, Brownie Speaks. He shines brightly on Carvin’ The Rock, which also boasts a driving Elmo Hope solo and articulate, probing and explosive drums by Philly Joe Jones.

Marc Myers, contemporary jazz ambassador without peer, conducted an enlightening interview with Lou Donaldson in 2010. I can understand that Myers enthusiastically calls Bellarosa ‘a hard bop anthem if ever there was any’, but which monicker should we then reserve for Horace Silver’s The Preacher, Miles Davis’ Walkin’, Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’ or Hank Mobley’s Funk ‘N’ Deep Freeze? Bellarosa, nevertheless, definitely stands out. The tricky theme is taken at a brisk, medium tempo and the tune swings effortlessly. Donaldson’s solo, excepting a customary (excellent) flurry of Parkerisms, holds back on the usual bop embellishments and instead opts for easygoing, slightly-after-the-beat swing. Donaldson’s tale, consisting of a relaxed start, evenly arranged phrases and a long note held in suspension on the bridge is as alluring as they come. Excepting Donaldson’s tone, which is more developed and characteristic in 1953, Bellarosa is reminiscent of Donaldson’s November 19, 1952 take of Horace Silver’s Sweet Juice, which included Silver and Blakey. Sweet Juice reveals the tentative, developing working methods of Silver, while Donaldson’s statements cautiously wheedle their way off the stage of bebop’s theatre.

There’s this tune organist Charles Earland wrote that was dedicated to his former bandleader, Lou-Lou, in 1970. (recorded on Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation) And a while ago, the popular Dutch jazz group Bruut! performed their boogaloo tune, Lou, on national tv. Just two examples showing that Lou Donaldson was and still is a hard bop personality with a capital P. Donaldson, just shy of 90 years old and rarely performing these days, himself has been vocal enough in this respect, having repeated his mantra time and again that jazz ain’t nothing without the blues. Sure ‘Nuff! Imagining Donaldson’s shrill, frivolous voice is enough to raise a broad smile on your face.