Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clifford BROWN and Max ROACH - At Basin Street 1956

Clifford BROWN and Max ROACH - At Basin Street 1956
Recorded in New York, New York on January 4 and February 16, 1956.
1990 Issue. 814 648-2


Recorded mere months before Clifford Brown died in a car crash, 1956's AT BASIN STREET finds the revered trumpeter in top form, co-leading an ensemble with drummer Max Roach that included saxophonist Sonny Rollins and pianist Richie Powell (who was also killed in the accident). Morbid associations aside, this record is a vibrant hard-bop outing with Brown's amazingly agile horn lines always commanding attention even when compared to Rollins's robust sax work. Standout tracks include a swift, swinging rendition of "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" and the bright, uplifting take on "I'll Remember April."

When Clifford Brown and Max Roach passed through Chicago in the latter part of 1955, a pregnant Mrs. Harold Land wired her husband to come back home to Los Angeles; so Sonny Rollins filled the tenor chair. The rest would have been history, except that Clifford Brown and pianist Richie Powell perished in an auto accident the following summer. But AT BASIN STREET remains, marking Rollins' debut and documenting the emergence of the decade's most innovative small combo and three of its greatest solo voices.

Still, much of this band's enduring grace emanates from the charts and accompaniments of their underrated pianist, Richie Powell--Bud Powell's kid brother. He transforms a sappy popular standard such as "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" through the use of multiple meters, rhythm changes and radical harmonic plumbing, while the witty intro to his own "Gertrude's Bounce" parodies "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" before breaking into a spirited bebop line. Elsewhere, his punctilious phrasing is a studied contrast to the Olympian effusions of Brown, Roach and Rollins, and his varied vamps and shifting backgrounds give each piece big-band depth.

Given all the Clifford Brown compilations that have saturated the market, it's nice to hear a full original album by the lauded trumpeter. On this 1954 release, Brown--who died in a '56 car wreck at age 25--teams up with drummer Max Roach, and the result is a classic set of bebop. Standards "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You" and "Stompin' at the Savoy" are played with mastery, and originals "Sweet Clifford" and "Mildama" by Brown and Roach respectively, highlight the two virtuosos' technical and conceptual abilities; breathtaking trumpet and drum solos are heard on both cuts. However, it is the wistful "Darn That Dream" that steals the show on this record. A gorgeous ballad in the hands of any professional.
Bass- George Morrow
Drums- Max Roach
Mastered By- Jeff Willens
Photography- Chuck Stewart
Piano- Richie Powell
Producer- Bob Shad
Tenor Sax- Sonny Rollins
Trumpet- Clifford Brown
01. What Is This Thing Called Love   7:38
02. Love Is a Many Splendored Thing   4:17
03. I'll Remember April   9:17
04. Powell's Prances   3:31
05. Time   5:08
06. The Scene Is Clean   6:09
07. Gertrude's Bounce   4:12


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