Clifford Brown

The EmArcy Master Takes, Vol. 2: The Singers Sessions

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The 2012 Clifford Brown three-disc anthology The EmArcy Master Takes, Vol. 2: The Singers Sessions collects all of the tracks Brown recorded with vocalists Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Helen Merrill during one magical five-month period in 1954. All of these sessions are now considered classic recordings and landmarks in the careers of each singer, as well as legendary trumpeter Brown. Coming off a four-year ascent that found him moving from working as a sideman with the R&B band the Blue Flames in 1951, to playing as a member of the Lionel Hampton band in 1953, to co-leading his innovative quartet with drummer Max Roach in 1954, Brown was a bona fide star by the mid-'50s and considered by many, including trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, to be the best trumpeter of his generation. Tragically, Brown's career was cut short when he died in a car accident in 1956. Thankfully, Brown was well recorded before his death, and these sessions display both his adept gift for virtuosic improvisation and empathetic ear for subtle, tender accompaniment of vocalists. Having already begun developing a strong group aesthetic -- later showcased on its own EmArcy recordings in 1954 -- that mixed thoughtful arrangements with adventurous improvisation, the Brown and Roach band was a superb choice for showcasing singers where arrangements and strong dynamic shifts are central to a good performance. Backing the vocalists here are not just the Brown/Roach band with tenor saxophonist Harold Land and pianists Richie Powell and Junior Mance, but also lineups including such stellar musicians as tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette, flutist Herbie Mann, drummer Roy Haynes, bassists Milt Hinton and Oscar Pettiford, and, as on the Merrill sessions, arrangements by Quincy Jones. Featuring a hardbound book with photos of the original front and back album covers, as well as new liner notes from Down Beat magazine’s Aaron Cohen, The Singers Sessions is essential listening for both Brown fans and jazz vocal fans alike.

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