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Jazz 91.9 WCLK | Membership Matters

Remembering Clifford Brown and Max Roach


As I was pulling together the playlist for tonight's edition of Mainstream and Modern(Sunday nights 8p-11p), I ended up going down one of those rabbit holes, in this case the brief collaboration between two Jazz greats, one you probably know and one maybe not as well—Max Roach and Clifford Jones. Max Roach emerged in the 1940s as one of the innovative drummers in the middle of Bebop. He and Kenny Clark dramatically changed drumming in Jazz from keeping the beat to an actual instrumental accompaniment, by playing the 4/4 beat on their ride cymbals instead of the bass drum, which allowed the drummer and the soloists to more freely improvise.

Clifford Brown crammed a lot of great Jazz music into his short 25 years on the planet, with a trumpet tone and a trumpet style that attracted a list of collaborators that included Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, J J Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk.

It was between 1954 and 1956 that Brown and Roach hooked up in a quintet that included George Morrow on bass, Richie Powell on piano and Harold Land on tenor saxophone. We'll feature Joy Spring to kick off the Mainstream and Modern tonight, a Jazz standard that made it's debut on Clifford Brown and Max Roach, released on EmArcy in 1954. Harold Land would be replaced by Sonny Rollins after this record. Joy Spring was Clifford Brown's nickname for his wife Emma LaRue Anderson.

While Max Roach lived a long rich life with dozens of albums, civil rights activism and eventual induction into various halls of fame and a MacArthur Genius Grant before passing away in at age 83 in 2007, Clifford Jones joined that list of Jazz greats who burned brightly and briefly. He lived a clean and sober life, avoiding many of the occupational hazards encountered by his Jazz peers of the era, but he could not avoid overnight drives from one gig to the next. On June 26, 1956 he was riding to a performance in Chicago with pianist Richie Powell and Powell's Wife Nancy, who was driving, when the car crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There were no survivors. Clifford Jones was 25 years old.

Rob Maynard is WCLK Operations Manager and produces various public affairs programs for WCLK, including The Local Take With Kiplyn Primus, CAU Connects, and Drive Time With Dr. Douglass. He also hosts Mainstream and Modern on Sunday nights 8pm-11pm.