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I Remember Clifford Brown | Vocalese Part 2 (S3 | E134)

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This is Episode Two of a three-part series on a jazz vocal genre called Vocalese. The shows centers on the album by The Manhattan Transfer from 1985 entitled Vocalese. It is one of the most nominated records of all time for Grammy Awards. And it has been a personal favorite album for a lifetime.

Vocalese uses recognizable lyrics that are sung to pre-existing instrumental solos, as opposed to scat singing, which uses nonsense words such as “bap ba dee dot bwee dee” in solos. In the “first wave” of vocalese creation, that sometimes took the form of a tribute to the original instrumentalist. The word “vocalese” is a play on the musical term “vocalise”; the suffix “-ese” is meant to indicate a sort of language. The term was attributed by Jon Hendricks to the jazz critic Leonard Feather to describe the first Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross album, Sing a Song of Basie.



Brown was born into a musical family in Wilmington, Delaware. His father organized his four sons, including Clifford, into a vocal quartet. Around age ten, Brown started playing trumpet at school after becoming fascinated with the shiny trumpet his father owned. At age thirteen, his father bought him a trumpet and provided him with private lessons. In high school, Brown received lessons from Robert Boysie Lowery and played in “a jazz group that Lowery organized”, making trips to Philadelphia.

Brown briefly attended Delaware State University[7] as a math major before he switched to Maryland State College. His trips to Philadelphia grew in frequency after he graduated from high school and entered Delaware State University. He played in the fourteen-piece, jazz-oriented Maryland State Band. In June 1950, he was injured in a car crash after a performance. While in the hospital, he was visited by Dizzy Gillespie, who encouraged him to pursue a career in music. For a time, injuries restricted him to playing the piano.

Brown was influenced and encouraged by Fats Navarro. His first recordings were with R&B bandleader Chris Powell. He worked with Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton and J. J. Johnson, before forming a band with Max Roach.

CLIFFORD BROWN (continued)

One of the most notable developments during Brown’s period in New York was the formation of Art Blakey’s Quintet, which would become the Jazz Messengers. Blakey formed the band with Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver, and Curley Russell, and recorded the quintet’s first album live at the Birdland jazz club. During one of the rehearsal sessions, fellow trumpeter Miles Davis listened and joked about Clifford Brown’s technical ability to play the trumpet. The live recording session ultimately spanned two days with multiple takes needed on only a couple of the tunes.

A week at Club Harlem in May 1952 featured alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and Brown. Brown later noted that Parker was impressed by his playing, saying privately to the young trumpeter “I don’t believe it.”

Just before the formation of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, journalist Nat Hentoff and Brown interviewed for a DownBeat article titled “Clifford Brown – the New Dizzy”.


Vocalese is the ninth studio album by the Jazz band The Manhattan Transfer, released in 1985 on Atlantic Records. Recording sessions took place in 1985. Production came from Tim Hauser and Martin Fischer. This album is considered to be The Manhattan Transfer’s most critically acclaimed album. It received 12 Grammy nominations, making it second only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the most nominated individual album. It also received extremely high ratings from music critics, including a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating from Allmusic. The album peaked at number 2 on the Top Jazz Albums and number 74 on the Billboard 200. The album’s title Vocalese refers to a style of music that sets lyrics to previously recorded jazz instrumental pieces. The vocals then reproduce the sound and feel of the original instrumentation. Jon Hendricks, proficient in this art, composed all of the lyrics for this album.

Show Playlist – I Remember Clifford Brown

Sing Joy SpringThe Manhattan TransferVocalese1985
Night in TunisiaDizzie Gillespie, Miles DavisThe Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes2002
Night in TunisiaClifford BrownThe Beginning and the End1972
Another Night in TunisiaThe Manhattan Transfer, Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrinVocalese1985
Ray’s RockhouseRay CharlesWhat’d I Say1959
Ray’s RockhouseThe Manhattan TransferVocalese1985
Blee Blop BluesCount BasieCount Basie, His Orchestra & Friends1954
Blee Blop BluesThe Manhattan TransferVocalese1985
I Remember Clifford BrownBenny GolsonBenny Golson and the Philadelphians1958
I Remember Clifford BrownThe Manhattan TransferVocalese1985
DahoundClifford BrownClifford Brown & Max Roach 1954
I’ll Remember AprilClifford BrownClifford Brown & Max Roach 1954
SanduClifford BrownClifford Brown & Max Roach 1954
You’re Not That KindSarah VaughanSarah Vaughan & Clifford Brown1954
PJ Ewing

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I Remember Clifford Brown | Vocalese Part 2 (S3 | 134)

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DJ and radio personality PJ Ewing is the host of Lester the Nightfly.

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