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Mark Masters Ensemble: The Clifford Brown Project

The California-based Mark Masters Ensemble gives us The Clifford Brown Project (Capri), a special presentation of the American Jazz Institute. The main event: Masters’ arrangements of Brown’s solos for a trumpet choir consisting of Marc Lewis, Ron Stout, Kye Palmer and Ron King. Lewis transcribed the solos, and Masters tucks them into burning arrangements for an 11-piece band. In a sense, Clifford Brown is a soloist right along with trumpeter Tim Hagans, baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and trombonist Dave Woodley. An added attraction: Jack Montrose, whose arrangements of “Joy Spring,” “Daahoud” and “Bones for Jones” originally appeared on The Clifford Brown Ensemble Featuring Zoot Sims (Pacific Jazz, 1954) and are “reissued” here. Montrose is also in excellent form on tenor sax on “Sweet Clifford,” “LaRue,” “Sandu” and “Bones for Jones.” The trumpet quartet is heard with the rhythm section alone (pianist Cecilia Coleman, bassist Putter Smith, drummer Joe La Barbera) on a poignant “I Remember Clifford,” and Coleman ends the program with a solo-piano reprise (at a ballad tempo) of “Joy Spring.” The band swings furiously in its own right, but what lingers is the inimitable, songlike quality of these classic trumpet solos, breaking out of unison into opulent four-part harmony at just the right moments.

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