802 Bookshelf: Clifford Brown – The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter

by Nick Catalano, Oxford University Press, May 2001, 208 pp., trade paperback, $14.95

Volume CI, No. 9September, 2001

Bill Moriarity

Nick Catalano, University Performing Arts Director and Professor of Music and Literature at Pace University, has written the first comprehensive biography of Clifford Brown’s short life. Brown, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1956 at the age of 25, was an immensely gifted trumpeter possessing a uniquely sophisticated sense of musical line. He has provided stylistic fuel for several generations of trumpeters, from Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard through Warren Vache to Nicholas Payton.

Catalano covers his life thoroughly, from the earliest days with his family in Wilmington, Delaware, to his marriage and the birth of his son. The chronology of his performing career is outlined, including the time spent with Chris Powell’s rhythm and blues band, the European tour with Lionel Hampton, his resultant early recordings, and the formation of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, which left us his greatest recorded legacy.

We tend to search books of this kind for hints of why Clifford Brown became Clifford Brown and why the rest of us did not, but we search in vain. There is here, however, much of interest on Brown’s personal and professional life, along with a brief discography. The book is in the Local 802 library.