Honoring Legends

Central Avenue Jazz Trumpetiste Clora Bryant Final draft

Jazz as we all know is much more that music we listen or dance to, it’s a strong piece of African American culture and history. Jazz comes from the the genius and creativity of the African American mind and has become a treasure to behold.

While working on my Masters Degree in Jazz Studies I have learned a great deal about the art and individuals that have help “spread the good news” of jazz and its importance to the black community. I have learned about “All-Girl” bands and women instrumentalist such as Clora Bryant (trumpet), Melba Liston (trombone), Elvira “Vi” Redd (alto sax), Vi Burnside (tenor sax) and several others that have despite stereotypical opinions and prejudices persevered and allowed their gift to shine. I would like to take the time to thank the above mentioned individuals and all the others for their contributions to Jazz and culture.

This knowledge has led me to focus on “Trumpetiste” Clora Bryant as the focus for my masters thesis. Bryant grabbed my attention because she is a woman trumpet player like myself. From examining her career and accomplishments I have drawn inspiration. Clora Bryant is the perfect example of how a woman can make it in a male dominate field and do well for herself.


Harrelson Trumpets

Yesterday I just confirmed my order for a Harrelson Bravura Trumpet. I am super excited about the investment and wanted to share some information with you all about the trumpets. Check it out…

Harrelson’s SWE Technology:

Standing Wave Efficiency (SWE) Technology is a physics-based design method that preserves energy in the sound wave as it travels through a tube or instrument.

In a traditional trumpet, energy in the standing wave is lost in the form of vibration as it travels through the trumpet. The further the wave travels, the more energy is lost. To make things more complicated, the higher the note on the trumpet the greater number of nodes and anti-nodes. These nodal points vibrate the tubing wall and braces, robbing even more energy from the wave. And it doesn’t stop there! A common side-effect of nodal points involves Excessive Vibration Interference (EVI) between fixed points (trumpet braces) separated by vibration-prone material (thin and/or stiff tubing).

EVI is present on all traditional trumpets especially along the leadpipe and bell, which results in interference with the original sound wave. The EVI effect becomes more noticeable in the upper register of any brass instrument. This is due to the greater number of anti-nodes and nearly proportional number of spans measuring EVI. Difficulty in the upper registers of the trumpet is mostly due to the EVI effect. Reduce the EVI with SWE technology and the upper registers respond and sound much like the low and mid-registers.

High efficiency Harrelson Trumpets retain sound quality and character throughout all four octaves by preserving energy in the sound wave. It is possible to double and triple tongue two or more octaves almost effortlessly on a Bravura and three octaves on the Summit, Nouveau and Gravity. Of course some practice is definitely involved!

SWE is much like improved fuel efficiency in a car. In the past 100 years, the efficiency of the automobile has improved considerably. The very first vehicles had such low fuel efficiency and power that they were considered oddities with no purpose. Vehicles of today are hundreds of times more efficient exhibiting power, handling and usefulness that is beyond their original inventors’ comprehension.

Now imagine the evolution of the trumpet. There have been a few innovative and practical improvements to the trumpet over the past 100 years, but efficiency has increased by very little in production instruments. Harrelson trumpets are the most efficient trumpet designs ever created. Like the automobile, better efficiency means more power, range, endurance, playability, dynamics and sound.

SWE Research & Development
Jason Harrelson has been researching and applying SWE technology since 1996 both in the lab and real world playing situations. In pursuit of Effiency, he has personally built over 380 unique trumpet designs and over 800 individual trumpets as of 2011. Hundreds of acoustic, psycho-acoustic and mechanical experiments involving instrument/mouthpiece design and embouchure with thousands of students, colleagues and clients worldwide give Harrelson the knowledge and understanding necessary to match trumpet design properties with each client client’s specific needs.

Individual Consultation
Jason Harrelson is an active musician and currently machines and assembles every Harrelson Trumpet personally. His diverse performance experience offers clients valuable perspective throughout the design and production process. He will consider your individual concerns and playing preferences while offering solid advice on technique and equipment solutions. Jason has dedicated his life to improving the way you make music. Schedule an appointment with Jason to discuss your personal needs today or call 651.330.7774 Mon-Fri 9-5 CST.



Be Equipted

I have been playing trumpet for about 14 years and one thing that I noticed is most important is equipment. Just like a basketball player has to have proper gear (shoes, uniform, etc.) or a carpernter has to have tools (wrench, hammer, nails, drill, etc.), a trumpeter must have proper equipment (horn, mouthpieces, etc.)

This summer I met a trumpeter from Baltimore that has given me lots of advice about equipment and it’s importance. Check out the following links about mouthpieces and values and let me know what you think…



Excerpt From Jeff Smiley’s The Balanced Embouchure

Health comes first in any educational
process. If your mind is dull and your body in a low energy state,
learning is impossible and progress halts. As a teacher, I am keenly
aware of the normal challenges everyone faces when learning the
trumpet. The last thing a player needs, on top of everything else, is a
health problem. And yet, students abuse themselves far beyond their
limits and almost always suffer the consequences.

Whether experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu, or feeling the effects
of more long-term conditions such as ADHD or asthma, most suffering
is self-induced. We create most of our own problems because we
push ourselves beyong the stress limits our mind/body can tolerate.
And since we are also not educated to know to what degree the
mind/body can heal itself, we accept suffering as a normal part of life.
Further, instead of knowing how to activate our natural healing
mechanisms and taking responsibility for our well-being, we instead
mistakenly take on the role of victim or patient and expect someone
else to fix us.

In this chapter are basic tips about taking charge of your health. I warn
you, however, the ideas presented here will sometimes sound new or
unusual. Actually, most of them are very old, waiting for the right
moment to once again be recycled into mainstream thought. As the
saying goes, there really is nothing new under the sun.

The Choice: Reduce Or Expand?

Ah, what would life be without different points of view? In the field of
health, as in the field of trumpet playing, there are competing
philosophies. Of the two main health points-of-view, the difference can
be summed up in a single phrase: reduce or expand?

First, there is the medical doctor who promotes the idea of reducing
disease to restore or maintain health. From his prospective, health is
the absence of disease, a base line of human functioning which is
defined as “within the norm.” When disease is present – and the base
line lowers – the doctor focuses on reducing the disease in order to
again bring the patient back up to “within the norm”. Methods applied by
medical doctors to reduce disease are invasive and always have side
effects, some more serious than others.

On the other hand there is the alternative health practitioner who seeks
less invasive, nontoxic ways to maintain health by boosting the body’s
natural immune system, expanding the mind/body’s innate ability to
ward off disease. Instead of directly attacking the disease (which he
considers to be a symptom, not a cause), the alternative practioner
instead works to raise the baseline of health to “above the norm.” In
other words, health is not treated as simply absence of disease, but as
an expandable robustness and vigor of the whole being. From the
alternative perspective, boosting health to higher levels leaves little
room for disease to occur.

Using the common cold as an example, we can see how the two
approaches differ.

The medical doctor sees the obvious – mucus, sore throat, general
achiness – and concludes that you’ve come in contact with some nasty
germs. He then proceeds to attempt to reduce each symptom. Using
one drug or several, he tries to kill the germs in the throat with a spray
or gargle, dry up the mucus with a decongestant, and dull the pain
receptors so the patient feels less discomfort. And yes, within a few
days the symptoms actually reduce, although new symptoms may
temporarily appear because of the drug side effects (note: all drugs
are toxic to the human body. This is not opinion, but fact).

An alternative practitioner sees a different picture. To him,
opportunistic germs are a surface level symptom and not the cause of
a cold or any other disease. Germs, in fact, cannot cause disease any
more than flies can cause garbage. Rather, excessive bacteria and
germs are the effect of a weakened immune system which has broken
down to the point where it cannot maintain a proper balance. Getting rid
of germs is like getting rid of flies. Unless you clean up the garbage,
they come back.

The alternative practitioner knows that cold symptoms have a purpose
– to rid the body of “the garbage” – and will end in a few days when the
cold has run its course and the job is done.

He also knows that suppressing cold symptoms with toxic drugs just
further weakens the immune system, driving the cause of the disease
deeper underground. Left unreleased, it eventually surfaces again,
often in a more serious form than a simple cold.

Most alternative methods are designed to speed up the purification
process by triggering the mind/body’s natural ability to heal itself. A
practitioner may use nutrition, physical manipulation, or other specific
healing-response modalities. Again, the intent is to expand health. In
the process, disease symptoms tend to spontaneously disappear
without side effects.

As a musician, your ability to perform is in part determined by your
health choices. Obviously, I’m in favor of the alternative approach. But
whatever your choice, it helps to view health problems from a deeper,
more causal level. In other words, why does our body/mind system
become “garbage” in the first place?

The Real Enemy

It turns out that common, ordinary everyday stress is responsible for
most health problems – the kind of low level stress that just keeps
grinding away without any real beginning or end, or potential for
resolution. Endless traffic snarls, a supervisor who puts you down, the
barking dog all night long, homework after band practice, to tired to eat
anything but junk food – these are typical stressors which can have the
cumulative effect of overloading your mind/body and triggering a
so-called “stress response” state. You can remain in that state for a
long time – sometimes years – with a weakened immune system,
struggling to function at or below the disease threshold.

Even the medical establishment is coming around to this point of view.
The cover story in the June 14, 1999 issue of Newsweek looked at the
current scientific view of stress. According to the article, “Stress isn’t
just a catchall complaint; it’s being linked to heart disease, immune
deficiency and memory loss. We’re learning that men and women
process stress differently and that childhood stress can lead to adult
health problems.” (For a transcript of the article, go to the Links page)

Stress is part of life, and learning how to deal with stress means
understanding which stressors impact you the most. There are three
main stressors:

1. Emotional Stress – includes experiencing divorce or relationship
problems. The mind and body are intimately linked. Anxiety or other
fear-based emotions can lead to physical disease.

2. Physical Stress – gravity is the most common stress, followed by
lack of sleep. Professions or activities which require physical exertion
beyond your limits can also trigger a stress response.

3. Chemical Stress – the poor air you breathe, the junk food you eat,
and the short and long term effects of all drugs taken needs to be
considered, especially if you are a teenager. Lifetime habits begin at an
early age.

Looking at the list, you may be able to easily single out the main cause
of stress overload in your life, or you may identify with all three. But the
real question is, are you taking charge of your life and doing something
about it, or are you playing the role of victim, powerless to do anything
and allowing yourself to be less that your best?

Even though you can often resolve stress issues by yourself,
sometimes you may need to seek outside help. It is not my intent to
exhaustively examine all of the different alternative helping systems
available. The most effective approaches are well documented through
the internet, books or videos. Choosing the right one is sometimes
confusing, with a wide variety of processes available. My best advice
is, don’t get mired down in the decision process. If you need help,
follow your intuition and go for it. You can read about it all day long, but
only by doing it will you know if it works most effectively for you.

Health Tips (non-medical)

I do not have – nor want to have – a medical degree. For years I have
been involved in helping trumpet players and others function better
through non-toxic, alternative methods. In that spirit, these
common-sense tips are offered.

1. Get enough sleep. According to a recent study, an average
teenager needs nine and one half hours sleep each night. I don’t know
if that’s true, but I do know that 6 hours or less doesn’t cut it. Students
commonly tell me how they sleep through 1 or 2 class periods each
day. Our young people face more stress each year than their parents
did in ten years, or grandparents did in a lifetime. As a result, they are
contracting more stress-related illnesses than ever before. Sleep is the
first line of defense in the battle against stress. As old-fashioned or
non-hip as it sounds, get more sleep and improve the quality of your

2. Take vitamin supplements. The vitamins and minerals you normally
get from plants are slowly disappearing due to soil depletion. Farmers
attempt to restore mineral content with fertilizer, but each year it gets
less effective.

Your body needs vitamins and minerals to grow and function properly.
The problem with most supplement pills is that they are hard to
assimilate, passing through your intestines nearly intact and
undigested. Choose supplements that are in food form or include
digestive aids like bioflavinoids. Standard brand names available at the
supermarket are usually worthless. A health food store will often have a
better selection and people to help you.

Vitamin C can be very useful for boosting the immune system. The
body does not produce its own vitamin C, so you must take
supplements. From personal experience I can tell you that not all
brands are created equal. You may need to experiment a little. One
hundred to five hundred milligrams per day is a good starting point.
Again, find brands that are easy to assimilate.

3. Asthma. For many kids with asthma, playing trumpet often turns out
to be the best “therapy.” Exercising the lungs seems to change the
whole physiology. Many of my students have thrown away their inhaler
after the first year or two.

For the others, I have a possible non-toxic solution. It turns out that for
asthmatics, a muscle located near the shoulder blade – called the
infraspinatus muscle – tends to become extremely tight (in spasm) and
painful to the touch, especially during times of respiratory distress.
When this muscle is relaxed, respiratory symptoms reduce or
disappear entirely.

As every massage therapist knows, muscles can be brought out of
spasm by simply pressing on the muscle center for about 10 to 15
seconds. To do this procedure, locate the infraspinatus muscle by
probing the general area (as shown in the picture) and press the tender
spot firmly with your thumb. It’s a simple process, but it is usually quite
painful and requires a bit of courage from the person doing the

4. Hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD. This most overprescribed of conditions
is due to a lack of arousal in the brain. Unable to think clearly or focus
thoughts, the attention wanders around like a bouncing ball. The
medical drug of choice is ritalin (methylphenidate), often decided upon
long before investigating alternatives such as nutrition or biofeedback.

Particularly troubling to me is how parents seem oblivious to the
amount of junk food their kids consume, from solid sugar breakfast
cereals to massive sized sodas several times daily. Junk food can
really affect behavior. One of my more unfocused students used to talk
incessantly about candy – how much she had, how she was going to
get more after school, on and on. Then she would reach into her
pockets and pull out handfuls of the stuff. After about three weeks of
this, I called her mother. “Oh no, that’s not true,” said mom. “She hardly
has any candy at all!” And, I couldn’t convince her otherwise.

Before drugging a child, I would exhaust the nutrition research on the
internet. There are links on my website to practical alternative research.
And be strong enough to trust your instincts. Remember, if it’s not a
drug, the family doctor probably won’t recommend it.

For a great article by Colorado State Board of Education
congresswoman Patti Johnson, go to the Links page.

5. The Emotional Keyboard. We come into this existence with the
ability to experience a wide range of emotions. Each emotion is like a
key on a piano which we can play or not play. What’s important to
remember is, pushing down the key is a choice. And every choice has

Mind and body are intimately linked, a centuries-old observation which
continues to be confirmed by today’s science. Because of that
connection, thoughts and emotions can have a powerful effect on the

When dwelling on a negative thought and feeling anger, for example,
we don’t stop and consider what we’re doing to ourselves. We tend to
think that because we have emotions that we can use them in any way
we want. Later on, when a physical symptom arises – like a headache
or lower back pain – we can’t easily see the connection, so we blame it
on something outside of ourselves.

But the real problem is inside. As we continue to play the emotional
keyboard in a negative way, lifetime patterns form. Eventually, more
chronic physical symptoms manifest, as headaches become migraines
and backaches turn into bulging discs. Thinking becomes less clear.
We get old before our time.

The good news is, people often figure this out early in life and change
their emotional habits. A good way to start is to observe your behavior
during the expression of a negative emotion, and ask your self if it truly
benefits you in any way. Or, are you simply a prisoner of a habit,
captive to a knee-jerk emotional reaction developed after years of

Many alternative methods are specifically designed to help break the
lock of emotional patterns by calming the mind, including meditation,
visualization and prayer. These methods can be done by yourself,
without assistance. For those that need help from a practitioner, there
are dozens of good choices available. Scour the internet and visit local
establishments like health food stores to find the best practitioners in
your area. Many will offer money back guarantees if not satisfied.

The Legacy of Clifford Brown…Article by Barbra Gardener of Downbeat Magazine

THEY COULD HAVE called him Cliff; he was the rugged individualist of his day. He could have been known as plain Brown; most people remember him as an unsophisticated, straightforward man. Yet they called him Brownie, an affectionate name one might give to a treasured pet.

Much fantasy has been interjected into the facts that contribute to the legend of Clifford Brown. The unexpected tragedy that killed the young trumpeter as he was reaching what appeared to be a musical peak feeds the flames as dry straw, the wild fire. But one truth is unequivocal: in 1956, the 25-year-old Brown was the new trumpet man to be reckoned with. Musicians had been touting him since Dizzy Gillespie had encouraged the teenager in 1949. J. J. Johnson, Ernie Henry, and the ill-fated Fats Navarro were among the prominent jazz figures who invested time, counsel, faith, and confidence in Clifford before he was 20 years old.

The Brown home was a comfortable family dwelling in Wilmington, Del. On Oct. 10, 1930, Clifford was born. His father kept in the home several musical instruments, including a trumpet, violin, and piano. The father played all these instruments for his own amusement.

Almost as soon as Clifford was able to toddle, his eye caught the trumpet. As he grew, “it fascinated me,” Brownie once said. “When I was too small to reach it, I would climb up to where it was, and I kept on knocking it down. When I was 13, my father finally bought me one-and only because of the fascination for the horn itself. Otherwise, I had no noticeable interest in music at that time.”

Much of the credit for the later dedication to music that Brown was to develop must go to a neighborhood musician, Robert Lowery, who fought to stimulate interest in jazz in Wilmington by organizing small groups and big hands. He constantly stimulated Brown’s interest in, and curiosity about, music.

The story of the tardy sideman and the subsequent opportunity for the local boy to break through is a hackneyed one; yet, it can be repeated here in truth.

Dizzy Gillespie came to Wilmington. Section trumpeter Benny Harris was 45 minutes late. This was time enough for 19-year-old Clifford to sit in and flabbergast Gillespie, the band, and the listeners. Gillespie took the youngster aside and impressed him with the importance of continuing in jazz.

Brownie HAD both feet on the ground. He really knew how to take care of business. So said the jazzmen who knew him then. All research indicates that this evaluation was correct and that it arose from a long-established personal code of conduct. The acceptance of the Wilmington audiences, the encouragement from the jazz musicians, the well-wishers who urged the trumpeter to break for the big time all fell on mindful but unblandished ears. Brown remained in school.

After graduation from high school, he enrolled in Delaware State College and majored in mathematics. In 1949, he received a music scholarship to Maryland State College and transferred there, where he gained additional experience by writing and arranging for the school’s 15-piece band. But his first love was playing.

During his time at Maryland State, Clifford had the opportunity to meet and work in Philadelphia with such jazz musicians as Ernie Henry and J. J. Johnson, and the two most important musical influences of his life, Fats Navarro and Max Roach.

Navarro was seven years older than Brown, but to young Clifford, Fats was the ultimate trumpet player.

“Whenever we did radio shows or were interviewed and he was asked who was his favorite trumpet player,” Max Roach remembers, “Brownie always headed the list with Fats.”

This was a mutual relationship, friends have recalled. Navarro, regarded as one of the most gifted and original stylists of his day, heard in the youthful Brown the faint echo of his own then receding prowess. By the time Brown emerged as a voice in 1949, spiritual and physical deterioration had reduced the clear, pure tone that was Navarro’s to a winded whisper. In July, 1950, three days after Independence Day, Theodore (Fats) Navarro died, freed from the agonies of tuberculosis and narcotics addiction.

Brownie and Fats had much in common. They were both multi-instrumentalists; they both began the serious study of the trumpet at 13 with gifts of trumpets from their fathers; they showed a community of ideas as to musical direction. Believers in the stars might find some relation in the fact that the two men were Libras and that both met untimely deaths.

Brown had a brush with death in June, 1950. Returning from a dance, the car in which he was riding was demolished in a crash. Shortly after Clifford was hospitalized, Navarro died. For months Brown was in serious condition. It appeared that both the new hopes of jazz trumpet would be lost. But Clifford recovered slowly, and in May, 1951, he was released from the hospital.

When Brown returned to the active list, he spent 1952-53 touring with a rhythm-and-blues unit headed by Chris Powell. With this group, Brown played trumpet and piano.

Trumpet players and musicians to the man, respected the impeccable technique and richness of tone that were the primary distinguishing characteristics of the man from Delaware. When Art Blakey was going to work in Philadelphia in the early 1950s, Charlie Parker advised him:

“Don’t take a trumpet player, man. You won’t need one after you hear this young cat, Clifford Brown.”

It was Miles Davis who first brought the name before Art Farmer.

“I first met Clifford Brown in the spring of ’53 in Philly,” Farmer said. “He was working with Chris Powell, and I was with Lionel Hampton. When Miles was on the coast in ’51 or ’52, he had told me that I would like Brownie because he was so warm, so I expected him to be good. Well . . . he exceeded my expectations.”

Now one of the most acclaimed trumpeters in jazz, Farmer is the only musician who can disclose personal feelings about the competition Brown offered.

“I must admit I was more than a bit jealous of his ability to play so well,” Farmer admitted dryly. “However, he was such a Sweet and warm human being, I was forced to like him even though he made things very difficult for me as a trumpet player.”

Farmer was not the only trumpet player who must have felt that inner tingle of envy. Almost ignoring Miles Davis, the jazz press eulogized Brown as “The New Dizzy.” No one bothered for some time to remember that the “old” Dizzy was still very much there.

Many trumpet players felt the weight of Brown’s strength. Although he was, in many respects, his brother’s keeper, he never shrank from a good cutting session and always was willing to blow the house down whether on his regular gig or while jamming. Farmer perhaps looked into the bell of the Brown horn more often than any other rising trumpet player of the early 1950s.

“In the summer of ’53, he was in Atlantic City with Tadd Dameron,” Farmer recalled. “I was in Wudwood with Hamp, and one night Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cleveland, and some of the fellows from Hamp’s band drove over to Atlantic City after work. We ended up having a session at the Club Harlem which lasted until 9 or 10 in the morning. No one played but the rhythm section and I guess almost all the trumpet players in that area. There were at least six of us, and Brownie was really pushing. You can’t imagine what an experience that was.”

This was only the beginning of the Farmer vs. Brown relationship. Farmer remembers the fall of ’53 wryly:

“Brownie, along with Benny Golson, came into Hamp’s band. Hamp goes for battles so this was his chance for a never-ending trumpet battle between Brownie and me.

“Although I felt that Brownie was the better player, I couldn’t just he content to let him make a foil of me.”

Then Farmer added, with steely eye and a brief, reluctant smile, “So I think there were some very interesting nights. In fact, every night was very interesting.”

Lionel Hampton knew how to exact the most from each of the trumpet men. Farmer remembers that before Brown came into the band, Farmer had most of the jazz solos. Hamp did not take any of Farmer’s solos from him. He merely loosened up the arrangement and made room for Brownie.

“He would send Brownie out front after me and then we would play choruses, halves, eights, and fours. The pressure was something painful, but more often it was a pleasure for the give and take of the thing.”

Brown might have remained simply an excellent musician and fellow artist to Farmer except for a recording session when, for a brief moment, the latter glimpsed a bit of the divine in Brownie and never forgot the experience:

“One night we had a recording session after the concert in Gothenburg [Sweden]. Brownie and Bengt Hallberg played Yesterdaysas if the tune would become, by some way, forbidden to be played anymore.

“He was a sweet cat.”

That brief remark is the usual unconscious, off the cuff analysis one receives when asking another musician to describe what Brown was to him. He had managed to endear himself to the jazz populace without creating the saccharin flavor that embarrasses most men. Although he was himself quite young, he had a social responsibility toward younger musicians, as well as a sense of obligation toward those less fortunate than he.

“I used to go to Clifford Brown’s house in Philly every time he was in town,” trumpeter Lee Morgan remembers. “I was about 14 or 15 then, but I was very close to him. He showed me so many things that would help me on my horn.”

Brown didn’t know that he was painstakingly training the youngster who would, within the decade, be dubbed an enfant terrible and perhaps the most promising trumpet soloist since Clifford Brown.

Instances of Brownie’s helpfulness and kindness abound in the music business. Farmer remembers the personal Clifford, not for a major deed, but rather for a small act of kindness he performed.

“Once we met in Chicago,” Farmer said. “He had just closed the Bee Hive, and I was just opening. The night we opened I discovered at work that I didn’t have any valve oil, and I called him up and asked him to bring me some. He didn’t hesitate a minute. He just came right over with some of his own. That’s the kind of fellow he was.”

He was also the kind of fellow who never had to meet face to face those whom he helped. When a prominent tenor saxophonist ran afoul of the law, Brownie’s immediate reaction was to help the family. In spite of the moral and physical decay of the saxophonist, he always had given his best to music. Now, Brownie reasoned, let music help him. Brown organized a benefit. He didn’t raise a lot of money; yet to the disillusioned, pregnant wife of the tenor man, that $350 was a windfall, contributed, not as charity, but as a small expression of the esteem held for her husband, the musician. Clifford never met the wife.

MAX ROACH was working in California in 1954. After playing briefly with bassist Howard Rumsey and his group at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, Roach returned to New York to hand-pick his own unit to return to Los Angeles.

“I had been aware of Brownie for some time,” Roach said. “1 had first become aware of his work on records. He had done some things in the Birdland series, and I heard his work with J. J. I was always impressed with his work, and when I began thinking shout forming my own group, he was the first trumpet player I thought of. I didn’t know him that well personally at first-I just felt that musically we had a spiritual bond.”

This was the beginning of a musical-personal partnership that was to blossom into one of the most renowned unions in jazz. They worked together some 27 months, no record by any means. Yet in this short time they cemented their relationship to such an extent that the death of Brownie affected Roach perhaps more than any other person outside Brown’s family. Today, Roach does not welcome expressions of sympathy or even acknowledge that there might be a basis for such.

“The feeling I have for Brownie has nothing to do with sadness,” he said. “When I think of Brownie, it is with love and appreciation for all the happiness he brought me, both musically and personally. He was a sweet, beautiful individual.”

When Brown joined Roach in March, 1954, the two Set about the risky business of holding a combo together. The two had many opportunities to work as singles but stuck together.

“One thing which has hurt small jazz units is the fact that bookers often haven’t been sure they’d get the same personnel the next time they hired a unit,” Brown told a writer in 1955. “They never were sure of the personnel or the sound. In a small band, if you stay together at all, you have a responsibility to maintain your identity. Max and I have had offers to headline as singles. But unless they hire the whole unit as it is, we won’t take the job. That’s the only way we’re going to keep together. We’ve got to work together all the time.”

“Brownie was so aware of all his responsibilities,” Roach has noted. “Not even I, as close as we were, knew just how much aware he was at the time.” Roach thought a moment and said, “You know, he was so stable and together that he had had the foresight to insure himself to the hilt. When he died, the policy covered the entire balance due on the mortgage on his home.”

Although indications are that Brown was innately reliable, it is Roach’s opinion that marriage was the clincher.

“Sometimes, in a relationship such as ours was in the beginning, a chick can hang the thing up by getting the fellow so involved he doesn’t take care of business,” Roach said. “But Clifford came out to California and fell madly in love. While he was courting, it sometimes got a little shaky, but as soon as he married the girl, he settled right down and really became stabilized.”

Roach remembers his friend as an inquisitive individual, a tinkerer who felt an insatiable desire to know all there was to know about music.

“Oh, he was always, always learning something,” the drummer remembered fondly. “Out in California, we had a house, and we had a piano and vibes as well as trumpet and drums. Brownie could play all these instruments, you know. I would go out of the house and come back, and he would be practicing on anything, drums, vibes, anything. He loved music.”

But music was his business as well as his pleasure, and he went outside of music to find two unrelated favorite hobbies, according to Roach.

“He was an excellent chess player, and he could shoot pool like, Wow! Of course, he was also a whiz at mathematics. He liked to fool around with numbers a lot.

“He was just too much. He was one of the rare complete individuals ever born.

“He was warm and polite to everybody. It didn’t make any difference who it was. But make no mistake-he was strong. He knew how to take care of himself. He even knew how to take care of me sometimes. Don’t forget, I saw Brownie in many, many circumstances, and he really didn’t take no b.s. from nobody. He dealt with club operators and owners, agents and these people in no uncertain terms.” Here Roach adds a point which seems almost unbelievable in light of the firm, outspoken drummer of today:

“When we had our group, I was the brunt of these people’s oppression; and Brownie would often straighten them right away.

His fellow musicians perhaps never realized the extreme pressure Brown was under much of the time. Accepting him as the new champion, musicians assumed the position of challengers. The competition was constantly climbing into the ring in the form of contemporary artists. The jazz “oldtimers” such as Art Blakey, who was 11 years older, or Roach, who was an innovator at Minton’s before Clifford had even begun to study the horn, these giants, accepted the youngster as an equal and reflected little consideration for his youth. After a particularly burning session in Chicago’s Bee Hive, Clifford quietly walked out of the club and stood sucking in the cool night air. He confided in a friend:

“I feel as though I have just had acid thrown in my face. My lips are on fire. Sometimes. I wonder if I can keep up with Max when he really gets that cymbal going.”

This is perhaps the first Roach will know of young Clifford’s inner fear.

Brown convinced more than the musicians that he was aware of what he was about and of where he was headed. Jazz writers and critics praised the trumpeter as combining the best qualities of Miles Davis and Fats Navarro. He was charged with the mighty responsibility of attempting a true synthesis of modern jazz. His firm, definite, almost percussive attack separated his sound from that of Davis, who was playing in the same detached style. His phrasing adhered fairly close to the frame of the bar and the beat. Brown was an improvisational teaser in that the mobility of his style permitted him to roam at will, creating melodic lines that followed the basic harmony while all the time pricking the imagination with the possibilities of extension.

He was recognized as a brilliant technician, and the purity of his tone complemented the precision of his execution. Art Farmer recognizes Brown thusly:

“Brownie and I received our primary inspiration from the same source, and I think at one time we sounded somewhat similar; but he was always the more capable for being able to really move around the horn.”

In most critiques or evaluation of Brown, little mention is made of his limitations, which were real and obvious. He occasionally would go in over his head rhythmically; the originality and maturity of his solos were sometimes questionable.

Roach, while not acknowledging these specific areas of weaknesses, alludes to them in his praise of Brown:

“He was an individualist, like Bird. I don’t mean he sounded like Bird or tried to play that way. I just mean he played Brownie all the time. He was so much of an individualist that you had to rate him over several other prominent trumpeters, although what Brownie was doing was not always as acceptable as what they did.”

ON A RAIN-SWEPT, early morning in June, 1956, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Clifford Brown, along with pianist Richie Powell, and Richie’s wife, Nancy, who was driving, was killed when their automobile hurtled over an embankment.

Various persons close to Brown can think of reasons why the accident never should have happened. Like most tragedies, this one is encased in “if’s.” Roach recalls vividly the minute details of incidents leading up to the accident-and away from it.

“The whole thing just never should have happened,” Roach said.

“Instrument manufacturers had been after us for some time to use their instruments. We never consented before. Every once in a while, Brownie would bring a new horn on the job, but he always went back to his old one. Well, this time, we had three days off between jobs, and Clifford and Richie went home to Philly, and I came to New York. We were supposed to open in Chicago’s Blue Note that following Wednesday. I called Brownie from New York to tell him what time and where to meet me on the turnpike, and we could come on into Chicago together. He said no, he had decided to go get a new horn.”

Max paused a second. Then he said, “If he hadn’t decided to get that horn . . . Anyway, we agreed to meet in Chicago. I was going to go on so I could get some sleep before working, so I left in time to arrive in Chicago around 3 in the morning. Brownie left Philadelphia in time to get to Elkhart, Ind., around 9 to get the horn and come on in to Chicago. The girl was driving. It was raining, and they were killed.”

The news of the tragedy spread quickly, and both Roach and Art Farmer remember that it was not a personal friend or relative who broke the news, but rather, businessmen.

“Joe Glaser called me in the afternoon,” Roach said. “I had been asleep and hadn’t heard anything about it. I went right back to New York. We canceled the date, of course. They had mass funeral services for the three of them that Saturday in Philly.”

Farmer remembered: “I was in a recording session with Helen Merrill. Gil Evans had written the arrangements and was conducting. Max Zeppo, the contractor of the date, came out of the control booth and said something about Clifford Brown being killed. We made two or three false starts on the tune we were trying to record, packed up, and went home.”

So ended a fleeting career. After the shock, there came the sobering realization that the productivity and vitality of Clifford Brown were lost. Then, through interchange of memories. it was clear that Brownie had left a precious legacy of good deeds and friends. Respect and admiration bordered on reverence.

Benny Golson penned a moving ballad, and Jon Hendricks set the lyrics to I Remember Clifford. The tune is one of the most recorded of the Golson originals. Each musician attempts to put into it some of his own affection for its inspiration.

The Philadelphia musicians’ local Set up a memorial scholarship fund in memory of the artist.

Though Max Roach never has published or recorded a tune overtly suggesting a connection with his former partner, “I try to memorialize him in other ways,” he said. “I have written two things, however, with Brownie in mind. I did a thing called Tender Warriors,in which I tried to tell how I felt about both Brownie and Richie. Then I have a new thing which I call Praise for a Martyr, which is really for Brownie.”

Out of the wreckage of the automobile tragedy has come a persistent trade rumor. In recent years, Roach has taken a more vocal stand on his rights as an individual and as a human being. His tactics are not always gentle or genteel. Quite often, he can become frightening in his rage. To many people, this behavior seems strange. Often one hears whispered authoritatively:

“You know Clifford Brown’s death really affected Max. He has never been the same.”

Roach does not deny the obvious personal sense of loss he feels when he remembers the days of companionship and musical compatibility he felt with Brownie. He categorically denies, however, that the trumpeter’s death has more than that to do with his present disgruntlement.

“I was not affected by Brownie’s death in that way at all,” Roach said. “What is affecting me now, and what has been affecting me more and more all the time, is the entire social atmosphere which breeds conditions such as I am forced to live in. Brownie’s death is a part of the whole mess. If conditions had been more just and equitable in this country, we wouldn’t have had to be jumping all over the country in cars, trying to make a living. We would have been able to work and be paid according to our contribution. We were doing it our way simply because we couldn’t afford to travel any other way.

Apparently, Brown shared some of this feeling with Roach.

“Are you kidding?” Roach shot back. “Of course, Brownie realized what was going on, and, in his way, he resented it. He was aware of Chet Baker. for instance, and the reception and the money he was making. We had been together for two years and were just beginning to make a little money when Brownie was killed. He never lived to really get any compensation for all that he did.”

Perhaps money eluded him, but Brown did live to receive international respect and recognition. He was awarded the Down BeatInternational Critics Poll new-star award in 1954. He enjoyed genuine affection among his fellow artists, and he lived to see his son, who was not yet a year old when Brown died.

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS is no long time. Many young men are still floundering at this age. Brown had developed into a real and permanent contributor, not only as a musician. Many artists have developed and some have burned out before 25. But Brown was a responsible social being.

No one can know how that first accident, in 1950, affected the trumpeter emotionally. It may be significant, however, that he made no attempt to return to school to prepare for a long-range career. He plunged headlong into the exercise of his best-known craft, assumed a co-leadership with Roach, married, and secured the future of his loved ones by heavily insuring his own life. And he lived an exemplary life.

There is little wailing and weeping over the death of Brownie, there is just recognition of a dull void for his absence and thanksgiving that he passed this way at all.

Rest in Peace Frank Foster

At 11am this morning tenor saxophonist, composer, arranger, and NEA Jazz Master Frank B Foster was laid to rest in Chesapeake, VA. Mr. Foster had a peaceful ceremony in which numerous family and friends honored him and his contributions to music and the world. Although he is physically not with us he will continue to live in the heart of every musician and person he has ever touched directly or indirectly.

You will truly be missed Mr. Foster… Rest in Peace.







Keeping my Promise

The other day I was visiting a friend that is currently going through a very tough situation. I walked in and embraced her tightly, then sat and listened as she poured out her heart. As I listened to her speak, I began to think of my life, dreams, goals, and ambitions. I listened as she told me about hers and how she feels this current situation is putting a damper on them. The more she shared, the harder I thought.

Ultimately, I came to this conclusion. Life is designed similarly to a maze. There are several paths in which you could travel and each path presents its own challenges and obstacles. Some lead to dead ends while others lead to broader paths, but no matter what in order to be successful you have to maintain a sound mind and level head in order to make wise decisions. If you make a wrong turn it’s okay, just learn from it and continue.

At the tender age of 8 when I realized I wanted to play trumpet, I made a promise to myself, my grandfather, and God that no matter what life brought I would never put down the trumpet. I fully intend to keep that promise too. Talking to my friend I realized that people turn make on their dreams and promises to themselves daily. Sometimes they do so and may not even realize it at the time but truth of the matter is life is supposed to be tough. Things are supposed to happen to try and shake your dreams. This occurs for you to realize just how important your dream is to you.

I leave you with these words… Never allow life’s obstacles to cause you to give up on your dream…

-Love “Trumpetess”

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The Legendary Frank Foster passes at age 82

“Best known for his work in the Count Basie Orchestra (and as the composer of the Count Basie hit, “Shiny Stockings”), saxophone player Frank Foster was an extremely successful composer. He created a large body of work for jazz, including works contributed to albums by singers Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, and a commissioned work for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid Suite, written for jazz orchestra. In the 1970s, Foster played with contemporary musicians such as Elvin Jones, George Coleman, and Joe Farrell and began expanding his compositions. He led his own band, the Loud Minority, until 1986 when he assumed leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra from Thad Jones. In addition to performing, Foster has also served as a musical consultant in the New York City public schools and taught at Queens College and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Foster is the recipient of two Grammy Awards.”


I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Foster in June of 2010. I was even able to sit in on a rehearsal with his community band and take a solo on his famous tune Shiny Stockings. Mr. Foster was a jewel, a lovely man with a lovely personality. He will never be forgotten for his dynamic contributions to music.


Yoga for Musicians

Article  by Mia Olson


Yoga for Musicians is a practice that I developed out of my own experience with music and yoga. It can help in so many ways including the development of a concentrated and focused mind for performance, an awareness of the body to prevent overuse injuries, and an overall awareness of breath to help with relaxation and musical phrasing. I was originally introduced to yoga as a way of exercise, but soon experienced that it offered so much more. Yoga is truly a way to balance the mind, body, and spirit. Through my own practice of yoga, I started relating these elements to my life as a musician, and am now able to help other colleagues and students along their journey. It has been exciting to see so many transformations throughout the years.

Through practicing yoga techniques, you can develop an awareness of breath and body that can help with any task at hand. For example, many students get very nervous before an audition or performance. Practicing a few of the following exercises prior to a performance can greatly reduce anxiety, and enhance performance. In addition, many people have developed a disconnection with their body. Through practice, they have been able to change the relationship that they have with their body, become more aware of their body, prevent injuries, and even heal overuse injuries.

As with any physical exercise, it is important to work within your limits. If anything does not feel quite right for your body, do not do it. We are trying to develop awareness to how our body feels and honor that without trying to force anything.

There are a couple of key elements that are important when practicing yoga. First of all, be aware of keeping a tall, straight spine regardless of whether you sit or stand. Keep the shoulders relaxed back and down as the chest opens and lifts slightly. Feel that there is a string attached to the top of your head, as you elongate the neck and keep the chin parallel with the ground. Secondly, develop an awareness of the breath and keep this awareness throughout all of the exercises.

The easiest and most effective exercise to practice before a performance is simply to become aware of the breath. This will bring our focus immediately to the present and will start to calm our nerves. When we get nervous or upset, the first thing to go is the breath, so by focusing on it and making it deeper, we can actually calm the nerves and develop more focus and concentration.

Let’s start with the most basic breath, the Full Yogic Breath, or Three-Part Dirgha Breath. Begin this breath by exhaling all of your air, pulling the muscles of the abdomen in and up towards your spine. Then relax the muscles of the abdomen and allow the air to fill up the belly, chest and all the way up to the collarbone. Continue exhaling and inhaling fully. Think about expanding the front, back, and sides of the body. Also think of slowing the breath down. If you need to reduce stress more, try to make the exhalation longer than the inhalation. By simply becoming aware of this full yogic breath, one can bring calmness back to the body and begin to develop focus and concentration,

Also try the Alternate Nostril Breath or Nadi Shodhana Breath. This is a very relaxing, balancing and calming breath. It is a great breath to help calm the nerves and reduce stress and anxiety. It also helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Start in a comfortable seated position with your spine tall. Begin to come into the Full Yogic Breath for a few rounds. Then, as you are ready, take your right hand and place your first and second finger between your eyebrows (third eye point). Even by lightly pressing this point, you can calm the mind. Start by exhaling all of your air. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, then release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale right side, closing this nostril, then exhale left side. Inhale left, close, exhale right. Continue with this breath for a few minutes, slowing down the pace of the breath a little more with each round. Release your hand back to your lap and notice how you feel now compared to when you first began.

The most basic posture in yoga is the Mountain Pose, or Tadasana. This is a great pose to use for playing on stage, as you will want to feel firmly rooted and planted when you perform. Practice this posture to help with spinal alignment and creating space in the ribcage for a full breath. Keep your feet hip width apart, toes pointing parallel and firmly planted on the ground. Engage the muscles of the legs, keeping the knees slightly bent, tuck the tailbone under slightly to keep a straight pelvis. Roll your shoulders back and down, lifting through your spine and through the crown of your head.

Most musicians tend to carry their stress in the upper body. The following exercise routine is great to do before a performance, audition, or as a way to warm up the body before a practice session. Once the exercises are learned, it only takes a few minutes to do them, and it can make all the difference in how you feel. All these exercises can be done in a comfortable seated or standing position. Just make sure the spine is elongated, shoulders are relaxed back and down, and the chest is open and slightly lifted. Connect with your full yogic breath. Do as many of these exercises as you would like, holding each stretch for 3–5 breaths.

Neck Circles: Allow the chin to rest towards your chest. Breathe into the back of your neck for a few breaths to release any tension. As you are ready, inhale right ear to right shoulder and breathe into the left side of the neck. Exhale chin towards chest and inhale left ear to left shoulder, breathing into the right side of the neck. Continue with half circles in front of the body. Then, come into full circles, being gentle as the head comes back. Reverse the direction after a few circles.

Shoulders – tension/release and circles: Inhale the shoulders up to your ears. Squeeze the shoulders up as high as you can, holding the breath in. Exhale as you drop the shoulders. Relax, and repeat two more times.

Next, inhale the shoulders up towards your ears, exhale rotating the shoulders back and down, opening up the chest area. After your shoulders come all the way down, inhale the shoulders forward, rounding the back, and continue the circles until the shoulders come all the way up to your ears again. Circle back for a few rounds and then reverse directions, exhaling the shoulders forward and down, rounding the back of the body. As the shoulders come all the way down, start to inhale the shoulders back, opening up the chest area, then up to your ears once again. Continue with shoulder rotations, making full circles coming forward.

Wrist and arm rotations: With the elbows bent by your sides and shoulders relaxed, circle the wrists away from each other in front of you. As you do this, feel free to move the fingers creatively, loosening them up. You can also bend one finger at a time toward the palm to loosen up the fingers. Repeat several times then rotate wrists towards each other in circles. Pause, then rotate the fore arms and hands towards each other in a circle in front of the body, then rotate them away from each other in the opposite direction.

Eagle Arms: This is one of the best exercises for reducing upper back and shoulder tension. Inhale and extend the arms out in a T position with your palms facing down. Exhale the right arm under the left arm, crossing at the elbows. Bend the elbows so that the palms face outward. Draw the right hand towards your nose and wrap it around the left hand, fingers pointing up toward the sky and palms come close to touching. Breathe into the back of the body opening up the shoulders. Rotate the elbows in circles in one direction, then in the other direction to loosen up the upper back. Then, inhale the elbows up and exhale the elbows down to feel the stretch in different places. Release the arms, shake it out, and repeat the whole sequence on the other side.

Standing Yoga Mudra: Start with your feet wide apart, toes pointing parallel. Lift the arms in front of you as you inhale then push the palms away from you on an exhale as you draw your hands towards each other, clasping the hands behind your back. Elongate the spine, lifting through the crown of your head. You can stop here and get a nice stretch through the chest and shoulders. Continue with the next stretch only if it feels comfortable. Begin by leading with your chest as you exhale, bending forward you’re your waist with your head coming down between your legs. Keep the knees slightly bent to protect them while you continue to draw the arms up and back, feeling a nice stretch in the arms and shoulders. Hold for a few breaths and come up to standing very slowly. Whenever the head is below the chest, you should move slowly, as all of the blood rushes to your head and you will become very dizzy if you move too fast.

Helicopter: This is one of the best exercises to practice totally letting go of tension in the upper body. Start in a standing position with the feet a little wider than hip width apart. Keep the knees slightly bent. Allow the arms to hang freely down by your side and start to turn the torso from side to side. As you start to move from side to side, the arms should flop back and forth like coat sleeves flopping in the wind. Imagine that the tension is rolling off your upper back, shoulders and arms, releasing out your fingertips, never to return again! Gradually come back to stillness after you feel that you have released some tension. Pause and notice how you feel.

These exercises can make a world of difference in how you feel and play. So, the next time you are waiting to go on stage or waiting for that audition, don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Spend that time connecting with your breath and doing a few of the exercises to release your tension and become focused. Just a couple of deep breaths, neck circles, or helicopters can do wonders. Experiment to find which exercises work best for you.

If you would like to learn more, I recommend finding a certified yoga teacher in your area. There are so many styles, so try different ones to see what feels right for you. Then, see for yourself how yoga can transform your life and your music. You can also find more information and pictures about the different poses, styles of yoga, etc. from Yoga Journal.

Mia Olson is a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher. She has developed and teaches Yoga For Musicians classes at Berklee College of Music where she is a Professor in the Woodwind Department. Mia also teaches Harmony courses for Berklee’s online extension school, BerkleeMusic. Mia has presented Yoga for Musicians seminars for many organizations and music festivals around the world including the Seminario & Encuentro Internacional De Jazz in Mexico, the Greater Boston Flute Association, and the Zeltsman Marimba Festival. To find out more information about Mia and her projects, please visit her website.

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