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September 2005

The Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet
The Historic California Concerts 1954
Fresh Sound Records

Two landmark California concerts by the legendary duo of drummer Max Roach and trumpeter Clifford Brown, using different personnel, were recorded in 1954: in Pasadena with tenorist Teddy Edwards, pianist Carl Perkins and bassist George Bledsoe; and in Los Angeles with tenorist Harold Land, pianist Richie Powell and bassist George Morrow.

Enhanced by previously unreleased, unedited material, this album reveals the virtuosic give-and-take between Roach and Brown at the beginning of a relationship doomed to last only two years because of the automobile accident that took Brown’s life at 25. There are many examples of their artistic bond here, none more impressive than “Clifford’s Axe,” which Brown based on the changes to “The Man I Love,” and Duke Jordan’s “Jordu.” They reveal amazing, swinging interplay between trumpet and drums, with Roach urging Brown on and filling the trumpeter’s gaps with trademark flourishes on ride cymbal and propulsive kicks on bass drum. His solo on the latter is a remarkable course in Drumming 101, and their trading of fours on “Axe” is an advanced course in chemistry. But ballads separate the men from the boys and Brown shows his tonal warmth and mature phrasing (at 23) with “I Can’t Get Started” and “Tenderly.”

These concerts are a must-have reissue.

Originally published in September 2005
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