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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Jack Ashby


Clifford Brown and Max Roach


Basin Street

VERVE 589 826-2



  1. What Is This Thing Called Love
  2. Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
  3. I’ll Remember April
  4. Powell’s Prances
  5. Time
  6. The Scene is Clean
  7. Gertrude’s Bounce
  8. Step Lightly
  9. Flossie Lou
  10. Track 1 - alternative take
  11. Track 2 – breakdown
  12. Track 2 – alternative take
  13. Track3 – breakdown
  14. Track3 – alternative take
  15. Track9 – alternative take

Clifford Brown – Trumpet

Max Roach – Drums

Sonny Rollins – Tenor

Richie Powell – Piano

George Morrow – Bass

Recorded Jan & Feb 1956 in New York City

The title of this recording is a little misleading as it was not recorded in the famous 51st Street club of the time, but a two Capital studio sessions (New York) in January and February 1956. The band had however been very popular at the club, where their visits had usually been extended due to the exceptional demand.

This is an outstanding band in every way Harold Land, who is one of my favourite tenor saxophone players, had recently left to be replaced by another favourite Sonny Rollins. The ensembles are really tight and the arrangements by Richie Powell (brother to Bud) and Tadd Dameron are always all interesting and exciting. The two leaders Clifford Brown and Max Roach are in tremendous form and so is the rest of the group. Clifford Brown was an enormous loss to jazz, when he was killed along with pianist Richie Powell, in a car accident in June of the year this recording was made. Clifford had a warm sound, imperious technique, a huge drive and an astounding capability for improvisation. At the age of 26, he was already the complete jazz musician and we are left to wonder what he would have gone on to create had his life not been drawn to such an untimely end.

Whilst the band only existed for two years it was recorded prolifically and carried all before it everywhere that it travelled across the USA.

Sonny Rollins who was also 26 at the time of this recording, is the ideal foil for Clifford Brown and he is still exciting audiences around the world with his stunning performances. Max Roach is another jazz giant; he propels the band along faultlessly in a way that few others have managed to emulate.

The programme is also excellent What is This Thing?’ is taken at a bright tempo, Love is a many Splendored Thing is transformed from dull ‘pop’ song to exciting jazz vehicle. Powell’s powerful vamp kicks off I’ll Remember April. Powell’s Prances and Time are two fine originals by Richie Powell. The Scene is Clean was composed and arranged by Tadd Dameron, not long after this he recorded it again with his own group. The sprightly Gertrude's Bounce is another Powell original. Step Lightly by tenor player Benny Golsen and Flossie Lou from Tadd Dameron are bonus tracks that were not included on the original LP. The alternative takes and breakdowns included gave an insight into the complexity of the music being performed here and the standard of perfection that the musicians had in mind.

Although nobody knew it at the time, this was probably the start of Hard Bop as delivered by Art Blakey’s Band up to the time of his recent death. Personally I still find this the most exciting jazz I have heard and whilst the music has run up many ‘alley ways’ since, it is still where it seems to refocus after the detour.

Don Mather



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