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Rayford Griffin: Reflections of Brownie

Dan McClenaghan BY

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Rayford Griffin: Reflections of Brownie
Trumpeter Clifford Brown left a big legacy, in spite of living a lamentably short life—he died in a car accident in 1956, when he was just twenty-five years old. His recordings with drummer Max Roach endure as near-perfect works of art. Sets like Study in Brown (1956), Clifford Brown and Max Roach (1954), Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street ( 1956), and Brown and Roach Incorporated (1954), all on EmArcy Records, are bright, hard-blowing masterpieces of bop's early years, and "Brownie's" Clifford Brown with Strings (Verve Records, 1956) is one of the most beautiful sets of the genre.

Reflections of Brownie, by drummer Rayford Griffin—Clifford Brown's nephew—pays tribute to pioneering trumpeter, not by trying to replicate Brownie's 1950s sound, but by updating it and giving it a new millennium sheen. Oddly, and delightfully, for a set that modernizes Brown, the disc spins to life with the child-like voice of Pee Wee Marquette, the diminutive 1950s MC at New York's Birdland, introducing "the trumpet sensation, Clifford Brown," followed by a rousing round of applause before the new century band kicks in, with "Daahoud," from, originally, the Clifford Brown Max Roach. Griffin and the band get funky. A driving Brian Bromberg electric bass and Griffin's deep groove drumming drives the horns, a rotating cast of trumpeters and sax guys.

Besides the modern drum/bass team, the keyboardists are the biggest factor in the update of the sound. Phillipe Saisse and the late George Duke supply the string-like drones and the dashes of pastel colors flashes of bright light that give the sound a dynamic smooth jazz feeling. And the horns are always fittingly gorgeous: Roy Hargrove, Rick Braun, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Doug Webb and Everette Harp on saxophones.

"Jordu," with its tight rhythm, muted horns and stinging guitar sound like something out of trumpeter Miles Davis' Tutu (Warner Brothers, 1986) era, and the standard, "Willow Weep for Me" has the keys giving the tune the vibe of Brown's Verve Records work with the string orchestra. "Sandu" comes the closest to matching Brownie's original sound, sweetened a bit by electric keys, and "Joy Spring," one of Brown's most familiar tunes, gets a slick, dance beat make-over to close out this very worthy tribute to one of the greats.

Track Listing

Daahoud; Cherokee; Jordu; Willow Weep For Me; Sandu; Joy Spring.

Personnel

Rayford Griffin: drums; Phillp[e Saisse: keys; Everette Harp; sax; Doug Webb: sax; Rick Braun: trumpet; Brian Bromberg: bass; Michael "Patches" Stewart: trumpet;George Duke: keys; Nicolas Peyton: trumpet; Roy Hargrove: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Reflections of Brownie | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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