Influence: Clifford Brown
I heard Clifford Brown’s playing for the first time when I was a teenager. I was on my way back home from a small group rehearsal at the Greensboro Music Academy (where I was a student at the time), and the pianist in the group, Branson Page, pops Study in Brown into the cd player. After hearing Brownie’s solo on Cherokee I was hooked. I hadn’t heard a trumpet sound like that up to that point. So I went out and bought that cd and learned his solo on Cherokee. I made it a point to check out as many of his records and through reading the liners to his records I was able to learn about his life and his tragic death in 1956. The life he led inspired me to stay “clean”.
During my senior year in high school, I met a vibes player by the name of Jon Metzger. I mentioned to him how much I admired Clifford and his playing. He suggested that I contact Clifford’s widow LaRue Watson Brown. He gave me her phone number but it took me about a year to gather up the courage to call her. I finally called her and we talked for a couple of hours about music, life, and Clifford. She told me that one of Clifford’s only addictions was doughnuts. He would eat an entire box of doughnuts in one sitting. I asked her about the Strings album and how it came about. She told me that Clifford wanted to have a child, but she didn’t want to have one just yet. So she told him that if he recorded a classical album they could have a child. He said what about a strings album and she agreed and a child was born.
Throughout the years I’ve been fortunate to acquire more rare recordings of Clifford’s artistry. From the people that I’ve met that played with him or heard him play, they all tell me that recordings don’t really do Brownie’s sound justice. They say that his sound was huge and warm in ALL registers. I learned a lot from hearing about that……