Soupy Sales Presents Clifford Brown
The only extant footage that's been discovered of Clifford Brown is from his appearance on "Soupy's On!" the TV show hosted by Soupy Sales at WXYZ in Detroit in the mid-50's. Notwithstanding his compulsive goofiness, Sales was a passionate jazz fan who befriended many musicans, and over the years he'd remind himself to look for this kinescope whenever he ran into Max Roach. Brownie's biographer Nick Catalano reports that he was at Max's apartment in New York shortly after the tape arrived in 1996, and they watched it together. "We sat there marveling at the quality of this bit of early television and the sight of Brownie conversing with Soupy was enough to make us both teary-eyed."
Detroit was a frequent stop for the Brown-Roach Quintet, and during the week of February 20, 1956, the band was working at the Rouge Lounge. By this time, Sonny Rollins had joined Brown-Roach, Inc., and in the first three months of 1956 they recorded At Basin Street, the only one of the quintet's Emarcy albums that featured the great tenor saxophonist, while Rollins led the band on his own Prestige date, Sonny Rollins Plus 4. Alas, with Brownie's tragic death in a car accident on June 25 of that year, the Rollins date on March 22 proved to be his last studio recording.
Go here to hear Brownie introducing the members of the quintet at the Cotton Club in Cleveland, site of this photo.
Brown was among the most beloved musicians, and the warmth and beauty that issues from virtually every note he played in his brief career is also evident in his response to Soupy's mention of his newborn son. Now 57 years since his death, Brownie still prompts speculation over the direction his music might have taken had he lived beyond his 25 years, and the impact he may have had on the stylistic evolution of jazz. Thankfully, he left a substantial body of recordings as well as this performance of "Lady Be Good" and "Memories of You." Today is Clifford Brown's 83rd birthday anniversary.