The late Clifford Brown was on the jazz scene only a short time, four years, but his impact is far-reaching. It’s only fitting that the trumpeter’s nephew, Rayford Griffin, would recruit four of today’s prominent artists with the instrument for a tribute: Reflections of Brownie (RazoRedge Records, 2015).
Griffin, a drummer, called upon several musicians who themselves owe a debt to Clifford Brown. They are bassists Brian Bromberg and Dan Lutz; pianist George Duke; keyboardist Phillipe Saisse; saxophonists Everette Harp and Doug Webb; and trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Michael “Patches” Stewart, Rick Braun and Nicholas Payton. Other musicians also contribute, including members of Brown’s family.
After an introduction of Brown from one of his live performances, Grifford and his companions take on “Daahoud.” The horns mix and match during the melody, with Duke, Bromberg and Griffin licking their chops plenty in the background. Trumpet solos provide bookends for Harp on the tenor and a dialogue between sax and trumpet. Griffin cuts loose, working the cymbals and toms overtime on the fade.
“Jordu” is a moderate groove with a hint of funk. It stands apart from the other tracks. Whereas the others are modern arrangements of Brown’s music, “Jordu” sounds like a completely new song, written for contemporary times.
Griffin has been working toward honoring his uncle since childhood. He says he began recording some gigs around Los Angeles, playing Brown’s music in a style faithful to the way Brown composed and performed them. But something was missing. “Really, how much better can I do this compared to the original statements he and the greats laid down?” Griffin asks. He thought about how Brown might play these songs if he were still alive. That process led Griffin to a concept of modern versions of Brown’s tunes, a blending of old and new.
Reflections of Brownie accomplishes that goal.