Weekend Extra: Brownie Speaks

CliffordBrown020Until recently, admirers of the great trumpeter Clifford Brown heard him speak only a few words on the album The Beginning and the End. Recently, however, a YouTube contributor who identifies herself as Nespasisi posted a segment of Brown being interviewed by Willis Conover of The Voice of America. Nespasisi explains that she found the fragment “on one of my dusty old cassette tapes.” The discussion was shortly before Brown died in an automobile accident on June 27, 1956, four months short of his 26th birthday.

Clifford Brown with Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone; Elmo Hope, piano; Percy Heath, bass; and Philly Joe Jones, drums, playing “Brownie Speaks,” included on this album. If you’re in the mood for more about Clifford, listen to Nat Hentoff talk about him with Clifford Brown, Jr., in a Philadelphia Institute of the Arts symposium.

For even more, go to this Rifftides archive piece.

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  1. mel says

    Thanks very much for this interview, Doug – what a find!

    I wonder if Nick Catalano knows about this? I just took a look at his biography of Clifford Brown, and Willis Conover is not mentioned in it.

  2. Andrew Homzy says

    There is also the performance and brief conversation with Soupy Sales for us to cherish –

  3. Светлана says

    Hundred thanks, Doug, for this exclusive opportunity to hear the unforgettable Brownie speaking. My heart aches when I think that in a short time after the interview this young and highly-talented musician died, leaving all his numerous admirers in grief. In two years there will be 60th anniversary since his tragic death but his music sounds fresh as before. RIP, dear Brownie…

  4. Colin Wood says

    Interesting. I thought cassette tapes weren’t around until the sixties.

    Thanks, Doug, for a conistently fascinating blog.

  5. Don Conner says

    Brownie sounds pretty much like one would expect i.e.knowledgeable, modest and self-effacing. What a tragic loss.

  6. mel says

    I’ve had a copy of the Soupy Sales video for a long time. It’s a gem, being the only extant video of Clifford Brown. But Sales gets me when he addresses Brownie as “Cliff”…

    • John Bartholomew says

      Soupy addressing his guest as Cliff? I don’t feel nearly as uncomfortable with that as I do when Willis Conover directly addresses his interviewee as “Brownie.” Gachh! It’s akin to Irving Mills addressing Ellington as “Dukie.” There’s something in the tone that comes across as deeply patronizing, at least to my ears. Soupy Sales was really a very hip guy, by the way.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for this. I think I first heard Brownie on a J. J. Johnson sextet LP and I still think his solo on “Get Happy” is the ultimate distillation of happiness that could ever be heard on trumpet. I can only imagine all the happiness he would have given the world. His early death was indeed a tragedy.