Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cuttin' it Loose in Berlin

Ella had just recorded the famous Songbook series on the Verve label and was considered at the top of her game - her appeal now reached an audience wider than the average jazz listeners. After having recorded Ella with smooth, studio-perfect Songbook recordings, her producer and owner of the Verve label, Norman Granz, wanted to capture the live energy of Ella at concerts. He also wanted to take advantage of her new widespread popularity, so he decided to record the live concerts on her first European tour. In 1960, Ella made a stop on her European tour in Berlin. The cd recording from this famous concert would eventually be considered Ella's finest and most famous recording.

Ella's recording of her Berlin performance, appropriately titled Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, is filled with examples of jazz genius. Twelve thousand fans packed the Berlin Deutschlandhalle to watch Ella perform such jazz standards as "The Man I Love," "Summertime," "That Old Black Magic," "The Lady is A Tramp," and "Misty." Each of these songs were sung with a type of technical-yet-effortless sound that only Ella could produce. However, the two most famous recordings from this cd, perhaps from her entire reperitoire as well, is her renditions of "Mack the Knife" and "How High the Moon."

Before she starts to sing "Mack the Knife," Ella warns the audience that there have been no former recordings of female vocalists singing this song, most likely due to the demanding range, and that she hopes she remembers all the words to the song. Halfway through the song, she forgets the some of the lyrics. Ella decided to use this as an opportunity to showcase her skill at improvising lyrics as well as notes, creating humorous lyrics on-the-spot such as "Oh, what's the next chorus to this song now/This is the one now I don't know/But it was a swinging tune and it's a hit tune/So we tried to do Mack the Knife" and "Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong/They made a record oh but they did/And now Ella Ella and her fellas/We're making a wreck, what a wreck of Mack the Knife." She also impersonates her close friend Louis Armstrong with a low scat.

On "How High the Moon," Ella scats throughout most of the piece. She uses "Ornithology", the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker's classic solo based on the chord changes to "How High the Moon", as a springboard for her own improvisation. It too is filled with little humorous lyrical improvisations inbetween her scatting, such as "I bet these people wonder what I'm singing" and "I guess I better quit while I'm ahead". Ella also would quickly incorporate other songs within her scatting as well, such as "Stormy Weather," "A-Tisket A-Tasket," "Heat Wave," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." It has been argued that this rendition of "How High the Moon" is the greatest scat solo ever recorded by a jazz vocalist.

Ella received two Grammys for Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, for the Best Female Vocal Performance (Single) that Year, and for Best Female Vocal Performance (Album).


Krohn, Katherine E. Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song. 19 Mar. 2001 <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=pLBEVVf69K0C&dq=Ella+Fitzgerald+%2B+Verve+%2B+Norman+Granz&prev=http://books.google.com/books%3Flr%3D%26q%3DElla%2BFitzgerald%2B%252B%2BVerve%2B%252B%2BNorman%2BGranz>.

Maliner, Michael L. "Ella Fitzgerald - A Final Word on the First Lady of Song" Good Times 30 July 1996 <http://www.maliner.com/bio/ella.htm>.

"Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife." Web page. 13 Nov. 2005 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_in_Berlin:_Mack_the_Knife>.

Bob Marley: Smile Jamaica Concert

In 1976, the Cultural Department of the Jamaican Government decided to put on a concert in a park in the middle of Kingston. The People’s National Party (PNP), led by Prime Minister Michael Manley, decided to have this concert and asked Marley to be their lead act. During this time the country was in great political turmoil because of disputes between the PNP, who was in control of the government at that time, and their opponent the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). While Marley faced great danger in accepting their invitation to headline the show, he couldn’t refuse to play because he was in debt to Tony Spaulding, the PNP Minister of Housing, for giving his family their home in Bull Bay. Consequently, the PNP decided to have an election soon after the concert. They knew that if the country believed that Marley was in support of their cause, then they were sure to win the election. JLP members were extremely angered because they also knew that the country would e swayed by Marley’s apparent support of the PNP. Soon after the concert posters were put up, Marley began to receive many death threats.
Marley could deal with death threats and so much more. On the evening of December 3, 1976 at 56 Hope Road, Marley and his band, the Wailers were rehearsing for their concert scheduled for two days later. Marley had gone to the kitchen during a rehearsal break, followed by his manager, Don Taylor. A gunman appeared in the door and began firing shots in Marley’s direction. Marley was only grazed by a bullet on his chest while his manager was shot four times in the groin. Outside the house, another gunman started shooting at Rite, Bob’s wife, who had just gotten into her Volkswagon to leave. She was also shot but not critically wounded because the glass of the car seemed to slow the bullets. After the incident Marley was quickly transported up the road to a safe encampment in the Blue Mountains above Kingston.
Two days after dealing with his near death incident, Marley went on stage at the Smile Jamaica Concert. In actuality, he was forced into by the PNP. Through everything, the Wailers put on a superb performance and Marley’s bodyguards were close at hand. Marley’s performance truly showed courage to all of the Jamaican people considering that his life was in grave danger during the entire performance.

Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
Penguin Encyclopedia of Pop Music
(these will be in proper format for final versions)

Coltrane Jazz

Coltrane Jazz is not referring to the album, but an entire style of jazz that Coltrane founded. John Coltrane was a revolutionary saxophonist and a lovely addition to the jazz community. By the be-bop and hard-bop era of the 1950s, John Coltrane had already developed an unorthodox dynamic style on the tenor saxophone. His deep and dark sound along with his coarse musical expression separated his style from the giants before him like Charlie Parker. Coltrane’s innovation developed into his own style and sound of jazz: Coltrane Jazz.
There has been much debate over which saxophonist has influenced Coltrane the most. In rare recordings from the early 1950s, his style is comparable to of Lester Young’s and Dexter Gordon’s recordings that took place early in their career. The combination of Young’s licks and Dexter’s dark, full sound, seem to have fostered Coltrane’s style. Although Coltrane did not directly refer to Young as an influence, he did mention Dexter and Sonny Stitt.
Along with all the inspiration Coltrane obtained from saxophonists, other non-saxophonists developed his style, just as much, if not more. From 1955-1957, he played with the Miles Davis Quintet, which is arguably where he first became experienced with ‘modal jazz.’ Just before Coltrane’s official departure from Miles’ group, from 1957-1959 he played with Thelonious Monk, who made him equipped with the skill of blowing long solos, forcing him to broaden his horizons for soloing.
After many different influential experiences, it was time to for Coltrane to be the lead on an album, also commencing the era of Coltrane Jazz. His first album Giant Steps (1959) devoted totally to his own compositions including the famous songs such as Countdown and Giant Steps, which exemplify his "sheets of sound." These sheets of sound refer to the “Trane-cycles” used consistently. Trane-cycles are a particular ii-V-I chord progression that allows an array of notes to be played. These cycles are difficult chord progressions, which yielded multi-noted solos; Coltrane liked to hit every note possible. This was his first step (unknowingly) towards developing Coltrane Jazz.
The other feature of Coltrane Jazz is the “modal” music he became fascinated with. It started in 1960 with the album My Favorite Things, and is also present on the albums Impressions (1961) and A Love Supreme (1964). By 1960, Coltrane had become deeply engaged with the music of India and even studied in India with Ravi Shankar (Coltrane named his son after this teacher: Ravi). Coltrane took the idea of ragas (Indian scales) and applied them to modal jazz, which created a beautiful hypnotic sound. It is arguable that his Eastern influence was even greater towards his playing than Miles Davis.

Works Cited

Goldberg, Joe. Jazz Masters of the Fifties. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1980.

Gridley, Mark C. Jazz Styles History and Analysis: Third Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1987.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph (“Rafe”) Vaughan Williams is arguably the most influential British composer of all time. Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in October 12, 1872 to a middle class family in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire. Young Ralph Vaughan Williams moved had a simplistic and calm life but it just so happens that his uncle was Charles Darwin. When Ralph turned six, The Origin of Species was published and their family and much of the world was shaken to the core by Darwin’s accusations. But in Ralph’s loving home, his mother replied when Ralph asked her about The Origin of Species, “The Bible Says that God made the world in six days, Great Uncle Charles thinks it took longer: but we need not worry about it, for it was equally wonderful either way” (Williams 13). Ralph started music lessons at a very early age as soon as his natural interest and talent was realized. Ralph Vaughan Williams continued to study music at the Charterhouse School, then the Royal Academy of Music, and Cambridge. In 1909, Williams began to directing and composing professionally. It was not until late in life after being in the army and serving as the Director of Music for the army that Ralph took on a new and different style all his own. Many of his most famous works were produced after this time in his life. Throughout the latter part of Ralph Vaughan Williams life, he began to become a great friend and mentor to many new composers in Britain and in America. He lectured all over the world and was blessed that his music had become quite popular throughout his own lifetime. Many of Ralph songs were composed with a spiritual meaning in the text and style. Yet his second wife who loved him dearly said that it seemed more like Ralph was an atheist. On his final night alive, Ralph sat in his bed and had a late dinner. Everything was seemingly a normal night and Williams was planning for the next day. That night he passed away, August 25, 1956.

A Short Biography. Retrieved November 22,2005, from http://www.rvwsociety.com/biography.html

Ralph Vaughan Williams. Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Vaughan_Williams

Williams, Vaughan U. (1964). R.V.W.: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams. New York: Oxford University Press.

Paisley Park

Paisley Park, better known as Prince, was one of the hottest U.S. singer/songwriter of the 1980s. Prince’s first exposure to music came from his parents. His father John Nelson was a jazz musician, and had a trio who had their gigs. Mattie Nelson, the mother, sometimes sang for Nelson’s jazz group. Mentioning John Nelson’s trio, Prince Rogers Trio, is that this is where Prince actually came from. By the time Prince was a teenager (1970-1980s), he could sing, and play the guitar, drums, bass, piano, and saxophone. Between the age of fourteen and sixteen, Prince played with several different bands. When he was sixteen, he recorded a demo tape and sent it to the company who gave him a contract, Warner Brothers. The demo tape that Prince sent to WB is priceless because he played all of the instruments himself which he recorded each part separately; then later combining them.

Prince’s most successful album was probably 1984’s Purple Rain (Prince was 26). Prince’s fame continued into the 1990s, and his music is still popular today. This artist wrote and produced funky pop songs that had cross-genre appeal, including the top-sellers 1999, When Doves Cry and Kiss. His music is a mixture of fusion of rock, soul, funk, and blues: he became known as something of an eccentric genius. When fans adored this talented artist who dressed in high heels and finery, other people didn’t understand his taste and just didn’t watch him. Although, was so multitalented, that on many songs he played all the instruments himself. His reputation for independent thinking was reinforced in the 1990s, when he changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Prince was known as, “the funky star who recorded 1999 and changed his name to a symbol (www.answers.com).”
Between 1993- 2000 Prince’s name changed in a symbol. He was then known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” This symbol combined the signs for male and female. When he changed his name into that combined symbol, many questions about his sexuality evolved. What did this mean the artist was? Was he trying to tell the world something? When 2000 came, the symbol, and "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," expired, and left Prince. It was seven years later because that was the ending of Prince and Warner Brother's contract.




One Love, Many Hits

Bob Marley is by far the best known reggae artist even today; almost twenty five years after his death. His success in Jamaica and the U.K. were unprecedented in his time, especially by a non American, reggae artist. Although most know of Marley and the wailers as a care free group, most of his career was not easy.

At the age of fourteen, Marley left home to pursue music. Later that year, he found Joe Higgs, who helped him produce his first solo single, Judge Not, in 1962. The next year, Marley founded a group with friends, known as the Teenagers. The members of the group included Cherry Smith, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithuaite, Bunny Livingston, and Beverly Kelso. Throughout the years, and with their growing popularity, the group's name changed to the Wailing Rudeboys, and later just the Wailers. Their first hit, "I'm Still Waiting", was produced under Consone Dodd's Studio 1. The next year, Braithwaite and Smith left the group to pursue solo careers. Less two members, the Wailers still succeeded in producing 70 songs before disbanding in 1970.

After a break of about a year, Marley moved back to Jamaica to reform the Wailers, along with Livingston and Tosh, and produced under their own label, Wail 'n Soul 'm. Under this label, they produced singles such as "Bend Down Low".

During this time, The Wailers teamed up with Lee "Scratch" Perry and the Upsetters, and produced singles such as "Small Axe" and "My Cup". Two members of Perry's Upsetters, Aston and Carlton Barrett decided to join the Wailers full time. With new members, the Wailers decided to make another independant label, Tuff Gong, in 1971, releasing only a handful of smaller singles before Joining Island records a year later.

1973's Catch a Fire, the Wailers' debut with Island records, was a hit. It showcased the smash single "I Shot the Sheriff." By 1974, the group was positioned for worldwide stardom, but Livingston and Tosh decided to leave and pursue solo careers. This is when Bob brought his wife, Rita, and her group the I-9's including Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt into the picture. This seemed to be the right formula; No Woman No Cry was released that year, dominating charts everywhere except the U.S. In 1976, the group's Rastaman Vibration broke the top ten in the
U. S.

Exodus was released in 1977, again smashing charts with singles such as "Jamming", "Waiting in Vain", and "One Love". In the same year, Kaya was released, highlighted by "Is This Love". These were the last of the Wailers' hits before touring began, and ultimately Marley's death in 1981.

VH1's biography of Robert Nuesta Marley

Wikipedia's biography of Robert Nuesta Marley

Fighting Through Some of the Racism

Growing up in today’s society, thinking of Sammy, a black man, as a musical icon, doesn’t bother us. This is because we see African Americans everywhere in every field; as journalists, news broadcasters, stock brokers, doctors, actors and actresses, musicians, entertainers. However, back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, seeing an African American, such as Sammy, as an entertainer wasn’t exactly common. Yes, there were black entertainers, like his father, Sam Sr., and his adopted uncle, Will Mastin, who were Vaudeville performers, but there weren’t “famous” black entertainers; there weren’t blacks at the level Sammy was dreaming of. After realizing that the Vaudeville acts the Trio had been performing were becoming outdated, Sammy always attempted to try new things in hope to take it where it hasn’t been before. He began doing that the evening of the Academy Awards in 1951. The trio was asked to be the opening act at Herman Hover’s Ciro’s, a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard where all the stars hung out, for an after party of the Academy Awards. The trio went through their normal routine, ending with Sammy doing some impersonations, and as they were exiting the stage, the crowd continued hootin’ and hollerin’ and Sammy felt the need to go back and give them more. Normally, he was only supposed to tap dance, but instead he broke out of this box and the audience couldn’t seem to get enough of Sammy’s sensational dancing and hilarious impersionations. Sammy left the crowd in such an up roar that the main attraction, Janis Paige, was timid to walk on stage. As Sammy became more creative and the other two became more tired and finding it hard to keep up with young Sammy, the title of “The Mastin Trio” added on “starring Sammy Davis, Jr.” which allowed Sammy to perform new things such as mimicking acts, impressions, and solo numbers. Sammy always shined when he was on stage. When he was on stage, nothing could stop him. Contrary to Sammy feeling inferior to the white entertainers, no matter what the conditions, when Sammy took the stage, he lit up the room. The difference in race between regular entertainers and Sammy was helpful at times because some enjoyed that he was excelling in a white man’s territory, but it also caused a great deal of difficulties later down the road.

One of the people that were taken back with Sammy’s showmanship on the stage was Jess Rand. Rand, a publicist to musicians, caught the Trio in Madison Square Gardens after recently hearing of the group. Rand immediately was amazed at the energy being displayed by Sammy, and ended up bumping into him later on the streets, after the show. Even then, Rand was amazed at the energy and drive Sammy had about his career. Sammy’s drive was so strong that he convinced the others to chip in 15 dollars a week to pay Rand to be their publicist and immediately put him to the test. The only directions to Sammy’s test was stated when he said. “My grandmother won’t believe I’m in show business until I have my name in Walter Winchell’s column and my picture in Lindy’s window.” Rand starting working on both of those tasks instantly, and even though they might have been hard, Rand completed both of them. The harder one was getting their names into Winchell’s column because he had pre-existing ideas of Sammy and didn’t like them, but after submitting to the pleas of Rand, Winchell attended the show at Bill Miller’s Riviera across from Manhattan and was amazed by Sammy, and mentioned the whole Trio in his column.

As the Trio traveled with Rand, the difficulties began to rise. Seeing three Negroes with one white man wasn’t very common which gave Rand a new insight on things. Rand would get angry when they would get turned down for gigs to less entertaining people because of their race. One common occurrence while driving through the Midwest completely changed Rand’s view. Especially through Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, they would get pulled over by cops who would ask Rand why he’s with these men, and he would have to explain that he works for them, and they still would make subtle derogatory comments about them. Cops would even ask Mastin and Sam Sr. for their wallets and would steal money from them, in front of their own eyes. It was also hard for Rand to become accustomed to only being able to eat at certain diners, or having to sleep in motels where it took a quarter to turn on the television. One thing that touched Rand was when he would witness Mastin pawning off jewelry to help pay for things, and see him sacrifice big meals, and new clothes, so Sammy could have the best. Although they had some rough times, they stuck together, but it still wasn’t enough for Sammy.

In February of 1952, Sammy and the trio was introduced to The Colgate Comedy Hour, a new variety show on NBC featuring stars such as Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, and the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis duo. The trios act was great for the show as Eddie Cantor, the host, was always looking for new and different talent. Although Sammy’s amazing tap dancing skills outshined those of Mastin and Sam Sr., they invited the trio back for more performances, however, Sammy began getting more attention on and offstage. Sammy’s presence onstage was so fluid and energetic, as compared to Mastin and Sam. Sr.’s mechanical like behavior. His hilarious impressions he would do off camera made everyone laugh and caught Cantor’s eye who enjoyed laughing as he requested Sammy to impersonate other people. Cantor continued to invite Sammy back and slowly Sammy slipped back into his habits of imitating people, such as Sinatra, but now, he was imitating white minstrel singers and even Cantor himself. The trios television performances on The Colgate Comedy Hour would land them a pilot television series about a traveling trio, much like themselves. Sadly, the pilot didn’t catch on to be a show, but it didn't bother them. They didn't need more than a mic and an open stage to entertain, so the the trio again, was back on the road!

Works Cited
Haygood, Wil. In Black And White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2003.



Monday, November 21, 2005

Miles and Kind of Blue

Every recording Miles made was stellar- all examples of personal musical expression at its finest. In fact, some of these recordings such as Porgy and Bess or Milestones were considered supreme examples of styles not yet beknownst to the jazz world. With all of his music's freshness, some considered Miles to have peaked, unable to top some of the things he had already recorded. This is a very questionable thing to say though, for in Miles' mind and the mind of several critics, he had the best sextet ever backing him up. On saxophone, he had two saxophonists from opposite ends of the jazz spectrum. He combined John Coltrane, the expressionist, and Cannonball Adderley, the formalist, creating a yin-and-yang, perfect arousal of the body and mind. As a part of his core, or his rhythm section, he used Wynton Kelly, following the talents of Bill Evans and Red Garland on the piano- even combining the talents of the two. Jimmy Cobb played the drums, laying out the feel of the group. To top it off Paul Chambers kept the beat and played the chords on the bass.

This spectacular group, although they had played before, still had the best to come, proving those who said Miles had peaked wrong. Miles, searching for a new style to experiment with, came up with an idea to play jazz based on the diatonic modes, especially the Dorian. In experimenting with this in Milestones, Miles came up with modal jazz, simply jazz based on the diatonic modes. He told his group that there would be fewer chords, amounting for a greater amount of experimentation, leaving the basic boundaries and barriers presented by the harmonic structures formulated in bebop. Thus, birthed from modal jazz came Kind of Blue, the epitome of avant-garde expression in not just modal jazz, but jazz in general. In fact, over the years Kind of Blue has become jazz's best selling album.

Kind of Blue's definitive track, So What, became the track defining modal jazz and Miles forever. He took the use of the modes to the next level in this track, simply switching between two different keys in the Dorian mode throughout the track, D Dorian and Eb Dorian. This track along with Freddie Freeloader, Blue in Green, All Blues, and Flamenco Sketches quickly became jazz standards heard in different clubs and venues all throughout the world.

The feeling presented in Kind of Blue could only be made once though. The restraint of the recording studio atmosphere created the tension, making the pieces what they were. When played at venues, the group could never quite return to what they had done in the recording studio. Thus, Kind of Blue affirmed one thing- restraint and subtlety can make a big statement. From this, Kind of Blue became the Ghandi of the jazz world, proving critics that the best was still to come.

Works Cited

Carr, F. (1998). Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press.

Tirro, F. (1977). Jazz: A History. Toronto: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Biography of Claude Cymerman

The walls in the Claude's studio are covered in posters from his previous concerts--some of them date back to before I was even born. The rest of the wall space is replaced by book shelves, rows and rows of books describing, teaching, glorifying music--mostly piano and mostly French. And thousands of scores, the majority of which he has played at one time or another. The remaining space on the book shelves is filled up with personal mementos (photos, trinkets, souvenirs) .
Most of the room itself it taken up by two black grand pianos--one for students and the other for Claude to demonstrate on. On top of the pianos are stacks and stacks of scores which give the room a look of untidiness (although in my opinion, is a sign of a busy musician). The rooms look as though it has been "broken in" by Claude over the past 30 years. Ironically, the DePauw job was an unexpected twist in Claude's life which turned into his permanent residence.
But this is where our conversation ended. We began by taking chairs by the window, coffee in hand with a comfortable student-teacher relationship (slowly built over the years) filling the air. However casual our relationship had been over the time, never had our personal lives come into our conversations.
So my questions started at the very beginning of his story-- October 2, 1947 in Metz Loraine, France (bordering Germany). Claude Cymerman was born to non-musician parents: a watchmaker/jeweller and housewife. They were an older remarried couple that had lost their first spouses and children in the horrific World War II. As a result, they were very protective and a little closed-off but like all parents, only wanted the best for their late child. The best included pushing him to work very hard at the piano, which he started when he was seven years old. The story goes that at a dinner party with a family friend, he started to pick a familiar tune on the harmonica with his nose which both amused and impressed the friend enough to offer him piano lessons. The Cymermans also had an old piano at their house on which Claude practiced his perfect pitch by plunking out songs from the radio on (this came handy later in life as well). Before he started his piano studies, he studied at a Catholic School where the teacher played the violin for about five minutes at the end of class which intrigued and touched the musician in the six year old Claude. At seven, he began to take piano classes at the Metz Conservatiore with Mercel Mercier- a teacher, composer, poet, organist, philosopher, and father-figure to Claude. Mercier, well admired and accomplished in Metz (a street was named after him), also had a daughter, Dominique, who was, and remains, a good friend of Claude's. Much like all other kids, however, he did not enjoy practicing the piano until he turned about thirteen and might have quit had his parents not persisted (his asthma kept him from doing things like sports). He did use his piano abilities--which came easily, much more easily than to others, to Claude--to accompany singers and play at the school of ballet where his talent for sightreading and perfect pitch were useful. However, an anecdote he told proved that it is not always such a good thing: Claude soon became bored with the written exercises for ballet warm ups and decided to improvise popular radio tunes. He happened to pick the favorite song of the premier ballerina who laughed upon hearing opening of the song, fell off her point shoe (the other leg was perched precariously on the bar), and broke her leg. His other job for pocket money was to accompany a retired singer, Madame Jungman, who lived down the block from him. She had become too old to be a great singer any longer and was starved for both human and musical interaction. At the time, Claude would make up excuses, any excuse, to not do it which she counteracted by begging him and his parents (who were a little more sensitive to the old lady's problems). Despite how much he hated it then, he swears that improved his sightreading and listening skills. He also realized, even at the time, that the singers success was directly related to the level of preparation and musicanship of the accompanist. Chopin had promoted that exact same thing and nowadays, Claude is a firm believer in accompaning and listening to singers and Opera to learn melodic phrasing and expressiveness.
By thirteen, Claude had begun to enjoy practicing and was entering in various national competitions--and winning. Also at this time, his school work had ceased to be important--most of his work was done for Metz Conservatiore--and his fortunate close relationship with the principle got him out of many tests. He graduated halfway through high school with a "midway" diploma. When he reached fourteen, Mercier and Claude began to take trips to the Paris Conservatory (where his asthma dissapeared and where he found cultural inspiration) to study with Pierre Sarcan. Previous study with a professor was one of the only way to get into the Paris Conservatoire because there was, and is, such stiff competition for admission. At fifteen, Claude was admitted to the Conservatoire and moved to Paris. Sarcan, a big fan of the Russian music school of beautiful technique and emotion, focused heavily on technique and agility. Claude, a self proclaimed "not workaholic", chose to do less than what was assigned technically and probably saved his muscles in the long run (other students of Sarcan did not stop in time and developed tendenitis). He also contributes his ability to relax to hours of foosball spent at the cafe next to the school. In May, 1968, it was the student revolution--later joined by the workers--whose slogan was "Power to Imagine"; there was no mail, no trains, buses, gas. Claude's small contribution to the riots was to push an old grand piano off of the top of the flight of stairs and to help lock the director in his house for a week. The point of the riots was to show the fact that the University's (and governments) way of doing things were too strict and stiff; they did not allow for creativity and personal preference. To get to graduate from the Conservatoire, the students had to win a competition--first year you must get third, then the next second, and then first to actually get the diploma. If someone won 2nd, and then got nothing the next two years, they were kicked out of the school; same thing happened if you get 2nd and then 3rd. But in three years, Claude was done with the Conservatoire.
At twenty, he married and took a year off to play jazz and generally enjoy life; he was in a group called the "Green Penguins" with a (unfortunately rock) drummer, and a bass guitarists who always cut his fingers on the strings. In '66, however, the Prime Minister of France,Georges Pompidou, extented the music education for another three years ( mostly because the Russians kept beating the French in all the International Piano competitions) so that Claude got a call from Pierre Sarcan to apply for the scholarship. After being admitted, he went back to studing the piano seriously. Around that time, the Iron Curtain had been lifted and he was able to go see the likes of Richter, Kemff, and Czefra. At the same time, he was performing the more international competitions--one of the most prestigious was the Margerite Long/Jaques Thibaud Competition in which he got second (and competed against pianist such as Vladimir Viardo).
It was at this competition that Claude met Gyorge Sebok, a Hungarian pianist that worked for Indiana Univeristy in Bloomington. He offered to get Claude scholarships to go to school in America and a week later Claude, his wife, and 6 month old daughter Elina took the last commercial boat, Queen Elizabeth, across the Atlantic (this way, they could take their car and most importantly, music). Claude attended IU for two years and had all the intentions to go back to France when the position for professor at DePauw opened up to which Claude applied, and was accepted and has stayed for the past 30 years.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

And It All Came Crashing Down

The Newport Jazz Festival has long been credited with rescuing jazz from the stranglehold of rock ‘n’ roll during the summer of 1955. George Wein, producing his second Newport festival, was able to procure some of the most formidable names in the history of jazz. Signed on for that summer were the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Dinah Washington, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, and even the now-unpredictable Miles Davis. Based on the incredible success of the past year for the still-young Brown and Roach Quintet, the group was invited to be part of this legendary cast. Doomed early on by a poor sound system and uncooperative weather, the festival’s early days yielded nothing but disappointment for most festival-goers. However, according to Down Beat reporter Jack Tracey, “the mental gloom on the part of the audience was dispelled immediately,” by Roach and Brown. They “ignited a fire right away,” he recalls. On a night when some of the most influential musicians in history were all gathered in one place, it was twenty-four year old Clifford Brown who saved the night.
Riding a pre-Newport wave of success after a week-long stint at Philadelphia’s renowned club Blue Note, and another week at the Bee Hive in Chicago, the members of the Brown-Roach quintet were playing as well as any musicians on the jazz scene. Brown continued to produce his trademark “fat” sound and perform his mind-boggling licks, even while suffering terrible pain from a tooth ache, and the group extended their fan base with a quick jaunt into Quebec, Canada. Their magical showing at in Newport only boosted their following, and the group was booked for a two-week stint at Basin Street in New York. According to Gary Kramer in Billboard magazine, the quartet’s performances at this stop brought the club the most business it had seen since Louis Armstrong’s show years before. Kramer continues to stress that Brown and Roach at this time are both “at the high points of their respective careers. These two artists are currently combining their rich talents in one of the most stimulating modern jazz combos extant.” The next stop was another booking at the Bee Hive where the group was so popular that the owners extended their original two-week contract an extra month. Business had never been so good.
However, while in Chicago, the group received some startling news. The grandmother of Harold Land had fallen gravely ill in San Diego. The considerable amount of time spent away from his family was a problem that had long haunted the saxophonist, and after many long, emotional debates, he decided that it was best for him to leave the group and return to his family in California. While the departure of such a great friend was difficult for each man individually, it also posed quite a dilemma for the group as a whole. Land had been an important factor in the chemistry of the quintet, and replacing his experience was going to be difficult to do. Luckily, fate was on their side. Living in Chicago at the time was Sonny Rollins, an already well-established musician who had just wrapped up a tour with the legendary Miles Davis. Davis has often claimed Rollins to be his “favorite tenor at that time.” However, the jazz scene had taken its toll on Rollins, who would disappear for months at a time due to a severe heroin addiction. Having already performed with the best in the business, the likes of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and J.J. Johnson, Sonny had felt unchallenged by the streaky Miles and had fallen on hard times in both is personal and musical life.
That all changed, though, upon his first performance with Clifford, who not only challenged Sonny on the bandstand, but in lifestyle. Rollins was transformed, and later recalled, “Clifford was a profound influence on my life. He showed me that it was possible to lead a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.” He quickly kicked his heroin habit and helped to send the Brown-Roach quintet to a whole new level.
Not two months after adding a new member to his band, Clifford added a new member to his household as well. On December 28, 1955 Clifford’s young wife, LeRue, gave birth to the couple’s first child; a son named Clifford Jr. Putting a rush on his travel plans between gigs in Philadelphia and New York, the anxious new father returned home for a few days to be with his new son. LaRue tenderly remembers these moments that Clifford had with his son: “He was a fantastic father. He would take the baby, put him on his lap, talk to him, have a whole conversation with him about philosophy, art, or music. When he would practice, he would lay him across his lap and play something, and he’d say, ‘Now that was so and so and so.” Unfortunately, these tender moments would come to an end. Not six months from his birth, the father of Clifford Jr. would be dead.
The start of 1956 saw the quintet touring and recording at a frantic pace. Roach and Brown at Basin Street and Sonny Rollins + 4 were both released, and the group made stops in Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Toronto, among many others. Whenever possible, LeRue would travel with her son to meet Clifford at various stops for some all too precious family time. When the group was near the couple’s Philadelphia home, the house became a haven for not just the family, but any other musicians in the area. The house was constantly abuzz with activity.
The weekend of June 22, 1956, his travels brought him near to his childhood home in Wilmington, Delaware. Happily, the exhausted musician took an all-too unusual break from touring to spend a few days with his parents and a favorite sister. The weekend included fishing trips with old friends and delicious home-cooked meals. It, however, ended all too soon, as the quintet was to meet up in Philadelphia and drive together to a gig in Chicago. The family recalls Clifford’s reluctance to leave that weekend. “Boy, I sure wish I didn’t have to go. I’m not in the mood to go,” he would mumble over and over. Trying to console him, Clifford’s father suggested “Well, take it easy. When you get to Philly, let Richie [Powell] drive.” That was the last piece of advice that Joe Brown would ever give his son.
After leaving home, Clifford decided to take a detour through Elkhart, Indiana on his way to Chicago and try out some horns. Elkhart was, at the time, home to several important instrument manufacturers and, conveniently, just south of Chicago. Later, Roach would recall this occasion as the only time Clifford would not ride with him to a gig. After picking up pianist Richie Powell and his wife, Nancy, the fateful trip was underway. The first driver of the night was Clifford, who seen became sleepy and most-likely handed the keys to Richie. Next in succession was Richie’s wife, who in a rain-drenched section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike lost control of the vehicle. The car hit a guardrail, skidded across the road, struck a bridge abutment, jumped the barrier, and rolled down a seventy-five foot embankment. All three people inside the car were killed.
The jazz community immediately went into mourning. Roach remembers little of that night, other than he immediately “locked [himself] in the hotel room and finished two bottles of cognac,” upon receiving the news. Benny Golson, a great reed player of the era, remembers being on stage at the Apollo Theatre in New York with the Dizzy Gillespie band when learning of Brownie’s death. According to him, the members of the band were informed of the tragedy between sets. The group bravely attempted to continue their booking, but most band members played with tears running down their faces, and many of the charts had to be cut off and restarted due to the emotional strain. The jazz world had lost their newest prodigy at the age of twenty-five. Benny Golson sums it up best: “Clifford Brown was a genius.”
Immediately, the “what-ifs” began to creep into peoples’ minds. What if he had lived? What could he have accomplished? Many experts believe that he would have become the single most important jazz figure of the time. In Nicholas Payton’s opinion, “I don’t know if we’ll ever hear the trumpet played like that again.”

Work Cited

Catalano, Nick. Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Morey, Greg. Brownie!. 1997-2005. http://www.cliffordbrown.net/.

Yanow, Scott. Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of the Jazz Trumpet.

San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2001.