Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet The Last Concert
Rare Live Recordings
Though the back of this CD cover clearly states "Only For Collectors and warns that the "technical quality is not up to today's standards, the playing here is some of the greatest you will ever hear. This two-CD set kicks off with a burning version of Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things, clocking in at almost 22 minutes, Max Roach beginning the fast tempo while audibly calling out the tune. Clifford Brown's solo at this breakneck speed is amazing, clear, incisive, and as exciting as anything in jazz.
Richie Powell's piano solo is unfortunately barely audible at first (perhaps the tape recorder or microphone is moved closer), but again the brash virtuosity is remarkable. Rollins and Brown trade eights with Roach, giving way to an extended drum solo, the kind that Roach became famous for: fast, melodic, dynamic and very lively. Cueing the band back, Brown and Rollins trade more lines; by the time the melody returns, you realize the super fast tempo has not decreased for twenty minutes!
The ballad "You Go to My Head displays how quickly and skillfully the band could change gears. Brownie states the opening melody with so much technical depth and emotional dynamics it feels like a legendary solo on the way, but Rollins steps in and delivers. Powell's solo offers shades of Chopin over bebop; Brown's melodic statements conjure the blues, great classical opera music and bebop harmonic advancement.
The last track, "Tea for Two, is more like a swing-era style jam. At least some of these performances were released on LP on the tiny Philology label, and there has been no "speed correction" done ("Good Bait sounds like it's in B natural instead of Bb, and "Daahoud in D instead of Eb). Regardless, this is an extraordinary document, a must listen for students of great jazz improvisation.
Jazz in 3/4 Time
Though nobody could replace Brown after he died in a car crash in 1956, Kenny Dorham joined Roach's band and stayed until '58, recording Jazz in 3/4 Time (1957). His tone is different from Brown's, maybe more "compressed" but also displaying formidable technical control and brilliant melodic lines. The idea was to record an album exclusively of jazz waltzes, and like the vast majority of Roach recordings, it resulted in great music that transcended concept.
This reissue begins appropriately with the leader's "Blues Waltz. Billy Wallace's piano solo is striking in that it starts in the middle-low register, usually reserved for left-hand accompaniment, and in his third chorus he plays two different melodic lines with two hands, a sort of improvised Bach two-part invention on the blues in 3/4. His playing is fascinating throughout. The great Rollins composition "Valse Hot is close to the beginning of its life, and this performance has creative sparks flying everywhere.
Tracks and Personnel
The Last Concert
Tracks: Just One of Those Things; You Go To My Head; Good Bait; One For My Baby (and One More for the Road); Someone to Watch Over Me; What's New; These Foolish Things; I Get A Kick Out of You; Daahoud; A Ghost of a Chance; Jaqui; I Get a Kick Out of You; Tea For Two.
Personnel: Clifford Brown: trumpet; Max Roach: drums; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Harold Land: tenor (CD2: 2-5); Richie Powell: piano; George Morrow: bass; Chet Baker: trumpet; Gerry Mulligan: baritone sax; Paul Desmond: alto sax; Dave Brubeck: piano; Norman Bates: bass; Joe Dodge: drums.
Jazz in 3/4 Time
Tracks: Blue Waltz; Valse Hot; I'll Take Romance; Little Folks; Lover; The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.
Personnel: Max Roach: drums; Kenny Dorham: trumpet; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Billy Wallace: piano; Ray Bryant: piano (6); George Morrow: bass.