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92nd Street Y Jazz in July: The Music of Clifford Brown

Nick Catalano By

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The Y's Jazz in July programing this summer included an evening celebrating the music of Clifford Brown on July 23rd—a treat for me as it was one of the few such tributes I've seen since Oxford U. published my biography of Brownie over a decade ago. The production included a panorama of Brownie photos projected onto the stage's big screen and some knowledgeable commentary from the series' director Bill Charlap.

The musical aggregation amassed for the evening included trumpeters Jeremy Pelt, Warren Vache, and Joe Magnarelli. The rhythm section featured the Washington boys Peter on bass and Kenny on drums. Charlap and his keyboard directed matters and new singing phenom Veronica Swift supplied the vocals.

The production was comprehensive with Clifford Brown compositions and recordings well represented; Such Brownie standards as "Joy Spring," "Daahoud," "Sandu," "Gerkin for Perkin," and "Blues Walk" were featured and the packed audience was treated to selections not heard in these parts for a while. The trumpet trio worked well although a tenor sax and two horns might have provided greater authenticity in capturing the Clifford Brown—Max Roach imprimatur. The horn players played the Heads with confident aplomb and their improvisations were evocative of the hard bop magic that Brownie engineered over 60 years ago. The Washington rhythming was delivered with the usual understated authority and Charlap's comping and improvs provided a highlight for this writer. Swift's vocals were outstanding. The young star continues to increase her performance weaponry and delivers lyrics with the power of a jazz veteran. I was hoping for the inclusion of Sonny Rollins's tune "Pent-Up House" (Swift's Mom, jazz star Stephanie Nakasian wrote memorable Lyrics) which was recorded in the last session before Brownie's tragic demise in 1956.

The Jazz in July series continues to feature some of Gotham's most thoughtful jazz programming and, hopefully, Charlap and company can continue their masterful run.
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