More will be revealed, they say. This morning’s manifest of that spiritual axiom is a newly unearthed interview with Clifford Brown that Willis Conover conducted for Voice of America. Who, besides VOA listeners behind the former Iron Curtain, knew this existed? Besides Brownie’s brief exchange with Soupy Sales on the comedian’s Detroit television show in 1956 (which I wrote about here last fall), this may be the only recorded interview with the man whom Dizzy Gillespie hailed as “the late genius of the trumpet.”
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Brownie (1930-1956) on record 45 years ago. The beauty that came through his horn warmed my heart for the man and awakened me to the glories of his instrument. On the same occasion, hearing of his untimely death at the age of 25 filled me with a new understanding of the capricious nature of life and concerns over what might have been, matters I’d first experienced with the assassination of JFK six years earlier, and a year before my Brownie discovery with the deaths of MLK and RFK. Still I wonder what might have been different in jazz’s evolution had Clifford lived a full life? That’s academic, of course. Not so Brownie’s thoughtful answers to Conover’s questions. Clifford never played a wrong note, and he’s equally well-spoken in this spontaneous Q&A.