Clifford Brown (YGtCTO Music #50)

I’ll Remember April
Song composed by Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye
Performed by Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Richie Powell , George Morrow and Max Roach

“Clifford was a profound influence on my personal life. He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.” – Sonny Rollins

On top of everything else, we owe Brown for all the amazing music that Rollins made after overcoming his heroin addiction, if only Brown had lived to know it.

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown was simply amazing. Before dying at 25 in a car accident, he brought together some of the greatest jazz musicians to make some of the best recordings ever. Think of Jimi Hendrix , but two decades earlier with a trumpet and without the drugs. I find his loss unfathomable and I am not alone. His death spawned at least one jazz standard, perhaps the saddest song you’ll ever hear, especially if you’ve been listening to some of Brown’s music beforehand.

I have no idea
if Brown liked baseball, but I’m going to make a left turn and take a leap here. Bill James is a baseball philosopher, writer and statistician. Over the years, he has grappled with the idea of greatness- do you measure it as a single brief peak or as the highest plateau where someone stayed for a period of time. In baseball terms, how does one player with one fantastic season compare to someone who maintained greatness for a decade?

In daily life, we handle these thoughts by deciding that someone died too young (or suffered a career-ending injury). We are right- they did stop too soon. But we’re human and like to bring order to chaos. We sort our heroes to determine who was the best, the top ten.

I started a list of 300 people and places that have influenced me because of their artistry, so I clearly like my lists. Yet, I quickly realized that sorting was beyond me. Almost halfway through, I think of so many additions that will simply not make this blog. That doesn’t matter.

Clifford Brown and Jimi Hendrix lived for however long and cast their art into the world for anyone who cared to be on the other end of their communication. The same is true for Vincent Van Gogh and Thomas Wolfe and countless others. The tragedy, it seems to me, is not that their lives were so short, but when we close ourselves off from the art that fills our world.

The question is not how do you sort your three hundred, but rather can you make a list of three hundred?

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 152 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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