Trumpeter Clifford Brown and saxophonist Lou Donaldson in 1955Metronome/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

It’s hard to believe that Clifford Brown lived just 25 years. In his short run, he remade American music more times, and more lastingly, than almost all trumpeters of any genre or generation, and he made possible the hard-bop legacies of Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Before his fatal car crash in 1956, Brown was in another car accident that sidelined him for a year, injuring his shoulder but not dampening his music. Dizzy Gillespie visited him in the hospital to encourage his recovery. “He had it all,” Sonny Rollins said.

Today would’ve been Brown’s 90th birthday. The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is expanding online from his birthplace of Delaware. His only known footage is a two-song appearance on a variety show hosted by Soupy Sales. Brown blazed the registers with ripping speed, textural bite, and arpeggiated flourishes, but he never felt the need to substitute virtuosity for voice. He could say more in three notes than many could in 30. His quintet with Max Roach ended with the highway crash that killed Brown, pianist Richie Powell, and Powell’s wife, Nancy, who lost control of the wheel while they slept between gigs. Hours earlier, Brown had played his final note at a Philadelphia jam session.

“There may be no sadder tale in modern music than that of Clifford Brown,” the Washington Post lamented, but alongside his loss runs a story of growth and recovery. By 1955 he’d become the most celebrated young player in jazz, equaling or topping Miles Davis. “When he was killed, there was an uncommon rush of sentiment in the jazz world,” Whitney Balliett wrote. “The tenor saxophonist and composer Benny Golson wrote a resonant dirge-ballad called ‘I Remember Clifford.’”

Today is the Friday before Election Day. It’s also Halloween eve. The world is madness. Take three songs and call me in the morning at recharge@motherjones.com: “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You,” “Joy Spring,” and “Daahoud,” lined up here.

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate