Soupy Sales Honored at Clifford Brown Symposium
During “Brownie Speaks,” a celebration of the legacy of jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, comedian/kid’s show host Soupy Sales was presented with a medal and certificate for his “advancement and preservation of jazz.” Now in his early 80s, Sales was a huge jazz fan and regularly introduced greats like Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker to the stage of his 1950s Detroit-based Soupy’s On TV show. Sales hosted Brown on his show and, as chance would have it, recorded the performance, which remains the only film in existence of Brown playing his trumpet. The clip, which appears in Ken Burns’ documentary, Jazz, was shown following the award presentation.
In the clip, Sales offered congratulations to Brown for becoming a father. Following the screening, an obviously touched Clifford Brown Jr. thanked Sales profusely for saving the clip and for all that he had done for jazz and jazz musicians. In acceptance remarks delivered for him by jazz singer and actress Annie Ross, best known as a member of the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Sales recognized Brown’s brilliance, stating, “The musical genius of Clifford Brown was obvious to everyone who encountered him. The sounds he recorded in his brief time thrill us today. ‘Joy Spring’ remains more than a song title. It is the essence of listening to Clifford Brown, a joy in music that springs forth all these years after his death.”
The three-day event (October 30-November 1) brought together jazz aficionados, musicians and educators to study, explore and celebrate Brown’s life and music. The event featured jam sessions, panel discussions and academic presentations, and performances by jazz greats Benny Golson, Lou Donaldson and Terence Blanchard. Brown’s son, Clifford Brown Jr., served as the event’s master of ceremonies. The on-campus concerts with Golson, Donaldson and Blanchard drew nearly 2,000 attendees. The Lars Halle Jazz Orchestra premiered a new John Fedchock composition dedicated to Clifford Brown. School of Music professor Don Glanden premiered his documentary, Brownie Speaks, which features interviews with Brown’s wife, LaRue Brown Watson, and family, friends and associates, including Donald Byrd, Donaldson, Golson, Wynton Marsalis, Arturo Sandoval and Herb Geller.
The academic portion of the symposium included presentations on such varied subjects as Brown’s improvisational style, his early influences and his years in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. Other participants included jazz critic and columnist Nat Hentoff; jazz pianist and keyboardist, noted author and Professor of Music at Rutgers-Newark Lewis Porter; Rick Lawn, saxophonist and dean of the College of Performing Arts at The University of the Arts; trumpeter and University of Denver professor Alan Hood; Clifford Brown biographer Nick Catalano; disc jockey Phil Schaap; and jazz greats Jimmy Heath, Golson and Donaldson.
The Philadelphia Music Project, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts, sponsored the performance component of the symposium, with additional support from The University of the Arts and the recently founded Philadelphia Jazz Heritage Project.
Photo caption: L-R: Soupy Sales, Kathy O’Connell (host of Kids Corner, WXPN), Marc Dicciani (Director, School of Music, The University of the Arts), Sean Buffington (President, The University of the Arts).
Photo credit: Dave Jackson