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International Trumpet Guild Journal


to promote communications among trumpet players around the world and to improve the artistic level
of performance, teaching, and literature associated with the trumpet

Alan Hood Two Early Clifford Brown Choruses on Ornithology


(Jun 02/37)

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Two Early Clifford Brown Choruses
on Ornithology
A HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL LOOK BY ALAN HOOD
This article provides a rare look at one of the great- Pennsylvania turnpike at the age of 25, Clifford Brown
est jazz trumpeters of all time: Clifford Benjamin surely would have pushed the harmonic boundaries
Brown improvising at a mere nineteen years of age. along with John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and all of their
Aside from studying this improvisation for its obvious followers.
historical relevance, my Robert Boysie Low-
purpose in presenting ery was Cliffords men-
this transcription is to tor from the time Brown
explore ways to use it was twelve until his
(and others) as a guide untimely death in 1956.
for learning to play bet- Lowery has dubbed his
ter jazz. The reader will method The Classes,
understand the following as it is based upon the
discussion if they have a premise that all chords
knowledge of basic chord or sounds fall into cer-
construction and the tain categories, or class-
ability to label a chords es, each with an impor-
harmonic function using tant function. Using our
Roman numerals. Roman numeral func-
It is often quite inter- tions, his Tonic Class
esting to examine a chords are I and vi,
great artists early trials Second Class chords,
in the art of improvisa- or sounds, are IV and ii,
tion. This is a transcrip- and his First Class
tion of Clifford Browns chords are ii and V.
very first recorded at- Boysie closely parallels
tempts at jazz captured the rules of traditional
during a private lesson theory, but has devised
with his instructor Rob- studies and exercises
ert Lowery in Wilming- which help students
ton, Delaware around hear their way through
1949 or 1950. From an the chord changes. Once
historical perspective, his students learn the
this transcription is system, its just a mat-
unique. It does not show- ter of altering and mod-
case a great artist in his ifying the classes and
prime with a rhythm adding the remaining
section, but a young stu- factor he terms the di-
Clifford Brown at Basin Street, 1956
dent of jazz working his minished sound. Boy-
way through changes who later became a great artist. sie lovingly and enthusiastically taught aspiring jazz
It is valuable to witness his early habits and tech- players, young and old alike, in his Wilmington, Dela-
niques in order to see how he developed later. It clear- ware basement until his passing in 1996.
ly shows that all of us have to start somewhere! Brown The recording was made with a disc cutter, which
worked extremely hard to attain his later status as a became available in the early 1940s for home recording
jazz giant. His practice habits have become something use. Boysie and Clifford were working over Charlie
of legend. Everyone who speaks of Clifford mentions Parkers and Benny Harris bebop tune Ornithology,
his constant practicing, right after saying how nice he which is based on the chord progression to How High
was, of course! He left us with a wealth of original jazz the Moon. A tape of the disc was played at the June 26,
tunes, outstanding recordings, and commonly cited 1976 Clifford Brown Delaware Heritage Concert and
jazz trumpet clichs. Had his existence not been cut was subsequently released on a recording of that
short by a fateful car accident on the rain-slick evenings performance on an LP entitled Portrait of

2002 International Trumpet Guild June 2002 / ITG Journal 37


liberties of time were taken), a
few rhythms have been slightly
altered during transcription in
order to fit them more neatly
into the 32-bar solo form.
Standard chord changes have
been superimposed over the
improvisation by the author.
A look at some of the finer
points of the solo will help both
the novice and intermediate
player gain insights into im-
provisation. Apparent on the
recording is Cliffords excellent
sense of time and swing feel
while improvising in a singing,
melodic, and relaxed manner.
This became a trademark
throughout Browns career.
The solo is constructed pre-
dominantly of eighth notes,
though many triplet patterns
are interwoven, typical of the
Camero Room, Mercantile Hall, Philadelphia, ca. late 1949 early 1950 bebop style. The phrasing is
(Photo courtesy the Charlie J. Chisholm Collection) also representative of the early
bebop style. Clifford exhibits a
Clifford. This was a privately good sense of balanced
issued 12'' LP by an unknown label phrasing, even though
and, unfortunately, is no longer this is basically a prac-
available. Nonetheless, tapes have tice attempt at impro-
circulated of the recording. The re- vising on the tune. Most
cording starts out with a truncated of the phrases are in the
version of the melody and goes into standard two- and four-
a chorus by Clifford with Lowery bar lengths and there is
playing guide tone lines under- an excellent use of
neath him on his alto sax. After a space.
chorus by Boysie on saxophone, Much can be gained
Clifford returns for another chorus, by observing Cliffords
this time completely unaccompa- outlining of the harmo-
nied. ny. Though its for the
The overall sound quality on the most part diatonic
recording is very good and Clif- (within the key), the
fords trumpet sound is recogniz- way he connects every-
able even in his late teens. On the thing, or voice-leads, is
melodic statement, the first half of worthy of further study.
the tune is shortened to 12 bars Clifford excelled at this
and the second half is in the stan- technique, even as a
dard 16-bar form for a total of 28 teenager. A quick analy-
measures. The solos are the stan- sis of the solo shows
dard 32-bar length, though, and it extensive use of the
is unclear why there is a discrep- 3rds and 7ths of the
ancy between the two. The general chords. These are im-
feeling is that he is playing by portant tones which sig-
ear. This accounts for the melodic nify a chords quality. A
statement and for some of the closer look at the first
questionable note choices in both of eight bars of each cho-
the solos. Given the nature of this Clifford Brown in his new band uniform in front of rus shows Clifford
playing exercise (in which small Howard High School, Wilmington, DE, ca. 1948 using these tones as

38 ITG Journal / June 2002 2002 International Trumpet Guild


2002 International Trumpet Guild June 2002 / ITG Journal 39
2002 International Trumpet Guild
essary to fill the gaps, so to
speak, between your important
guide tone choices.
This is an exceptional way to
practice playing over chords, for
these choice notes provide cohe-
sion to the line. Practice compos-
ing guide tone lines over a short
set of chord changes and embell-
ish upon them. Be as smooth as
possible, moving up or down pri-
marily in half and whole step
intervals. They dont necessarily
have to be the 3rds and 7ths of
chords. Use your ears and good
judgment to form a line to your
liking. Begin modifying your line
by adding syncopated rhythms to
them and then by adding another
neighboring note or two. Then,
play simple phrases as you impro-
vise in a manner similar to Clif-
fords solo here. Take your time
and use your ears as a guide. This
may take many months to accom-
The author with Robert Boysie Lowery in his Wilmington, DE, basement, ca. 1992 plish.
Another important melodic
structural landmarks set in a guide-tone fashion, that tool evident in this solo is Cliffords extensive use of
is, moving smoothly from one to the next in whole what has been termed surround tones. These are
steps and half steps. tones which lie a step or half step above and below a
Example 1.

given note and are often played together in


approaching the target note. Some examples in the
In measures 1 and 2, the third of the A Major chord, solo include measure 2 of chorus one, beat 2 moving
C-sharp, moves nicely to C-natural in bars 3 and 4, to beat 3.
which is the third of the A minor chord and the seventh Example 2.
of the D7 chord. In bars 5 and 6, the C-natural goes to
B-natural, which is the third of the G Major chord.
Finally, an emphasis on B-flat in bars 7 and 8 becomes
the third of the G minor chord and the seventh of the
C7 chord. This 3rd to 7th relationship works particu-
larly well on chord progressions of ii to V to I, as this
follows the circle of fifths. A study of Browns later
solos will show the same principles being utilized. In
addition to the guide-tone voice leading, study of the
simple scales and embellishment tones as related to The C-sharp and A-natural surround and target the
the chords will yield the additional melodic notes nec- B-natural on beat 3. Another good example in the first

40 ITG Journal / June 2002 2002 International Trumpet Guild


chorus is in bar 30, beat 3 going to beat 4. This exam- Example 6.
ple contains both half steps.
Example 3.

There are also a few examples where Clifford finish-


es a phrase using a tension note, giving it an unre-
solved quality. This is a characteristic trait of the bop
A classic sample in the second chorus is also in bar style. In the first chorus he ends the phrase in bar 4 on
30, beat 1 moving to beat 2 where surrounding tones a G-sharp, or the raised eleventh of the chord resolving
target the 3rd of the chord. it in bar 5.
Example 4. Example 7.

Play the first four bars and hold out this note. Notice
how it has the need to resolve, or move somewhere. In
the same location on chorus two, the phrase is con-
The D-sharp and C-sharp smoothly approach the D, cluded on an E, the ninth of the chord, and ends with
which is the third of the B minor chord. This is an a different tension note.
excellent way to embellish your important tones, such Example 8.
as the guide tones chosen in the previous exercise.
These surround tones were an important aspect of
Cliffords later style and are a great way to introduce
some chromatic tension or color into your playing. As
you can see, the half step is a very important interval.
Study the remainder of the uses of the half step in this
and other improvised solos and attempt to incorporate This evokes a similar unresolved quality. In each
surround tones into your own solos. case, the tension notes resolve downward to a chord
Among other relevant items are the use of some member of the following G Major chord. This is the
chromatically altered tones on the D7 chord in bar 20 common tendency. In contrast, notice the resolution of
of the first chorus. bars 5 and 6 in the second chorus where the phrase
Example 5. ends on a consonant note.
Example 9.

Play this and hold the final note. This has a definite
Clifford seems to be tentatively moving into this feeling of relaxation. The root of a chord is not such a
realm. This technique involves altering a chord mem- bad note to land on if used in the correct way! These
ber by raising or lowering it a half step. On this D7 tension and release notes are outstanding ways to help
chord, he uses the colorful sound of a raised fifth shape your improvised phrases.
degree, a raised ninth degree, and a lowered ninth Clifford had a very melodic, bustling, singing style
degree. The ninth is the next-highest chord tone with an agile and light articulation which is in evi-
beyond the seventh. Along with the eleventh and thir- dence even in this early solo. His characteristic use of
teenth, these are referred to as extensions. These are grace notes and warm sound, are modeled after his
sounds that are fun to employ and with which to exper- idol, Fats Navarro. We all need to have models to imi-
iment! tate for the learning process to be set in motion. Yet,
2002 International Trumpet Guild June 2002 / ITG Journal 41
some people never get past the imitation phase to published by Oxford University Press. Hood is a
achieve their own personal sound. Boysie tells how he United Musical Instruments clinician for their Conn
constantly admonished the young Clifford for his imi- Vintage One product line.
tation of Navarro. I dont want you to be a copy cat,
he told him; Make sure you say what you want to say. The author wishes to dedicate this article to the mem-
This is good advice if you want to stay true to yourself ory of Robert Boysie Lowery, mentor to Clifford
and have your own voice. Listen closely to models of Brown and countless others. He spoke with me about
tone, articulation, rhythm, ornamentations, and Clifford Brown and jazz playing on three occasions.
phrasing. When the time is right, after years of listen- His warmth and his zest for life were an inspirational
ing and experimenting, your own sound will begin to look into the power his teaching must have had for
emerge. young Clifford Brown!
The aforementioned ideas are just a few ways in
which you can use a transcription to learn the art of
jazz playing and form your own creative ideas. There
are other things that you can get out of transcriptions,
as well. You can pick out a short pattern over the chord
changes and transpose it to other keys. This is a great
way to become comfortable using your ideas and pat-
terns. You can vary the articulations of the transcrip-
tion in order to expand your vocabulary of sounds. You
may also find it interesting to compare one transcrip-
tion to another by a different artist on the same tune.
This is a quick way to observe the distinct stylistic dif-
ferences between the two soloists. Your focus should
also be on the melodic and rhythmic development of
the solo, and the discovery of the compositional tech-
niques that the player used to achieve a well-balanced
improvisation. This way, the solo becomes a part of you
while you are training your brain and ears, requiring
them to transfer musical thought to sound on the
instrument. There is always a tremendous amount of
knowledge to be gained when you do a transcription,
and even more to be learned when you take it and do
different things with it. The value of this kind of study
cannot be overstated.
It is my hope that you have found some useful
devices in this transcription that you can incorporate
into your own playing, and that this has inspired you
to do some transcribing of your own. The educational
value of careful, repeated listenings, and of studying
transcriptions for their inherent creative ideas cannot
be stressed enough. I hope that you have enjoyed this
brief, one-of-a-kind glimpse into the youth of one of our
jazz legends.

About the author: Alan Hood teaches trumpet, music


theory, and jazz at the Lamont School of Music at the
University of Denver where he plays regularly with
the Aries Brass Quintet and the Climb jazz combo,
both faculty artist-in-residence ensembles. He also
performs with the Denver Brass, a 12-piece symphon-
ic brass ensemble in the area. His former teachers
include Howard Rowe, Vince DiMartino, Ron Modell,
Ray Crisara, and Gil Johnson. Hood is a DMA candi-
date in jazz studies at the University of Miami where
he taught on the jazz faculty prior to his Denver
appointment. He served as chief researcher for the
recent biography on Clifford Brown by Nick Catalano

42 ITG Journal / June 2002 2002 International Trumpet Guild