Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Trumpet futures

PBS’s revival of Ken Burns’s Jazz made me recall this quip attributed to the trumpeter Lester Bowie:

“If Clifford Brown were alive today, I’d be working in the post office . . . and Miles would be my supervisor.”
My question now: where might Wynton Marsalis fit in this picture? Would he be the president of the post office? Or would he be working alongside Bowie (and filing grievances against him and their supervisor)? I’m not sure what fits.

If you’ve never heard Clifford Brown, try “Daahoud,” or “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

[I can find no authoritative source for the quip. A 1983 interview with the magazine Musician may be the source. As you can guess, I’m not a fan of Ken Burns’s Jazz or the Stanley Crouch-Wynton Marsalis idea of jazz.]

comments: 5

Chris said...

There's a great (and brief) piece by Julio Cortázar about Clifford Brown:

"That difficult custom of being dead. Like Bird, like Bud, he didn't stand the ghost of a chance, but before dying he spoke his most obscure name, he had long held the thread of a secret discourse, damp with the modesty that quivers on the Greek stelae where a thoughtful young man gazes at the white night of the marble. Clifford's music in these moments captures something that usually escapes in jazz, that nearly always escapes from what we write or paint or love. Suddenly, near the middle of the piece we sense that the unerringly groping trumpet, searching for the only way to sail beyond the limit, is less a soliloquy than a contact. It is the description of an ephemeral and difficult affirmation, of a precarious relinquishment: before and after, normality. When I want to know what the shaman feels in the highest tree on the path, face to face with a night apart from time, I listen once more to the testament of Clifford Brown, a wing-beat that rends the continuum, that invents an island of the absolute within disorder. And afterwards, once again the custom wherein he and so many others are dead."

Michael Leddy said...


The Crow said...

Double amen. Wonderful description.

One of my deeply-loved pieces of music is Stardust, which Mr. Brown made sound as though we were out among the stars listening to the cosmos mourning lost love.

Geo-B said...

It was Jazz that put me off Ken Burns. If he got so much wrong about something I know about, it made me doubt all the other shows he did that I had to take his word for.

Michael Leddy said...

Martha, your comment made me think of William Carlos Williams’s characterization of a short-lived poet as a nova in the sky. Clifford Brown was one too.

George: notice that he waited until long after the Civil War to make that documentary. :) At least with the other two subjects, he didn’t have Crouch and Marsalis shaping the narrative.