Thursday, December 06, 2012

Clifford Brown With The Great jazz Singers.

Hip-O-Select, the reissue label associated with the Universal Music Group that includes the classic Mercury, Emarcy and Verve catalogs has issued a second volume in its Emarcy Master Takes reissues of Clifford Brown’s music, The Singer Sessions. This deluxe reissue comes packaged in a profusely illustrated hardback booklet with annotation from DownBeat associate editor Aaron Cohen, with three stick back pockets that the compact discs are housed in. The booklet contains wonderful photographs of the various performers on these sessions as well as the covers of the original releases of these recordings which included not only LPs but extended play EPs as well. This packaging is marvelous.

The first two of the three CDs reissue the sessions that produced (among other releases) Dinah Jams and  Jam Session. The material is presented as it was originally recorded with Cohen providing the details how this session came about. Max Roach and Clifford Brown had already recorded extensively in the days before this session. Junior Mance notes that while labelled a jam session, this was actually a party in the studio with such an impressive cast of musicians that included Brown, Roach, Harold Land, Richie Powell and George Morrow along with pianist Mance, trumpeters Clark Terry and Maynard Ferguson, bassist Keter Betts, guitarist Herb Geller, and drummer Buddy Rich.

I am more familiar with the selections on which Dinah sings (including my favorite recording of Lover Come Back to Me, and the superb I’ve Got You Under My Skin). Listening to the hot bop of Denzil Best’s Move and the rousing rendition What Is This Thing Called Love, is wonderful as it sounds what one might have heard if they were on a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour. Brownie’s mix of sweetness and hot fire always impresses and one must not lose sight of just how good a saxophonist Harold Land was as can be heard in his terrific solo on You Go To My Head. And one should not forget the shorter performances such as Dinah’s wonderful vocal on No More

The third CD combines two later sessions on which Brown played, one with Sarah Vaughan and the other with Helen Merrill. The first session featuring Vaughan was originally from an album titled after the singer and with a session that also included Paul Quinichette on tenor, Herbie Mann on flute, Jimmy Jones on piano, Joe Benjamin on bass and Roy Haynes on drums with Ernie Wilkins handling the arrangements. The playing is a bit tighter here with the focus on Sarah Vaughan’s vocals. There are still plenty of moments such as Brown exchanging fours with Vaughan’s scatting on Lullaby of BirdlandApril in Paris, opens without the horns, before Quinichette has a lovely solo and Brown adds some muted trumpet accompanying Vaughan as she resumes singing. On He’s My Guy there are nice choruses for Quinichette and Brown before Jones takes the spotlight. The combination of Sarah Vaughan’s divine singing, Wilkins’ terrific arrangements and the superb playing by the studio band this date, not simply Brown, results in a classic recording. 

Helen Merrill’s eponymously titled debut recording had Brown, flutist Danny Banks (also on baritone) as featured horns accompanist on a Quincy Jones supervised date that included Milt Hinton or Oscar Pettiford on bass, Jimmy Jones on piano and Barry Galbraith on guitar in the studio. Brown’s bright open playing during his solo contrasts with Merrill’s soft vocals (almost like a whisper) on Don’t Explain as she sings “you’re my joy and pain.” You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To swings lightly and Brown takes some spirited choruses after Jones takes a solo. Listening to her on What’s New, I can understand why Dexter Gordon also took to this ballad, while on Yesterdays, the longing she expresses is complemented by Brown’s featured choruses. This was a recording full of charm and heart, It had an impact on Merrill such that she would revisit it four decades later with a homage to Brown employing a brass ensemble to evoke his spirit.

The Singers Sessions is a welcome companion to the previously issued 4 CD set, “The Emarcy Master Takes” which compiled the recordings Brown and Max Roach made together, this will be welcome to those who do not have the initial recordings. The music sounds good and the backing is attractive. This music is to quote Merrill singing a Gershwin classic, “it’s wonderful, it’s marvelous,” and recommended although those having prior reissues of some or all of this material might pass on this. Certainly this would make a welcome holiday present.

The recording company sent me a review copy. Here is what I believe is the only video of Clifford Brown performing that exists and originated from a fifties local late night show that Soupy Sales hosted.

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