Delaware musical heritage on display with Clifford Brown Jazz Festival

Clifford Brown’s life may have ended in tragedy, but his legacy lives on, full of joy. Each June Wilmington celebrates that legacy.

 That legacy will be celebrated in association with the annual DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (June 13 – 20) when the inaugural Clifford Brown Jazz Trumpet Consortium comes to the Christiana Cultural Arts Center in downtown Wilmington from June 15 – 18.

“I’ve been thinking of doing this for about 12 years now,” says consortium organizer Alan Hood, associate professor of trumpet at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and expert on Brown’s life and music. “I’ve always wanted to present his music and his history in his hometown.”

Hood and musicians Brad Goode, Terrell Stafford and Greg Gisbert will offer courses in listening, transcribing, improvisation, music theory and tune learning. Each day will conclude with a jam session. The consortium will wrap up with a public performance.

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“The goal is for participants to learn as much from each other as from the faculty,” says Hood.

Attendees will also tour Brown’s east side neighborhood, see where he went to school and visit his grave site where they will participate in a moving musical tribute. They will also have the opportunity to meet and talk with special guest, Clifford Brown Jr.

Twenty-eight trumpeters have signed up for the event. They range in age from 16 to 65. Some are coming from as far away as Canada and Utah as well as from Hood’s home base of Denver.

Hood got interested in Brown when a high school teacher gave him some recordings. “I was just floored and I started buying every LP I could find of Clifford’s.”

What continues to amaze him is how Brown managed to integrate the logical and emotional aspects of music in his playing. “I think his greatest legacy, if you listen to a lot of his music, is it’s incredibly melodic,” says Hood. “He was a math wizard so he understood how music got put together in a logical way but his playing was also so emotional and highly melodic.”

Brown died in a car accident on June 26, 1956. He was only 25 years old. Yet in that short span of time he managed to record more than a dozen albums, four of which—“Study in Brown,” Brown & Roach, Inc.,” “Clifford Brown with Strings” and “At Basin Street”—remain quintessential examples of the art of jazz trumpet playing. He was also the first—or one of the first—proponents of the jazz subgenre known as “hard bop.”

“He definitely falls in after Gillespie, Navarro and Miles Davis,” says Hood. “But as young as he was it’s amazing that he will go down as one of the greats of all time.”

Hood hopes the consortium takes root in Brown’s hometown. ‘I’m hoping it will grow a bit and become a permanent part of the festival,” he says.

As for the DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz festival itself. The music begins Saturday with a pre-concert at the Delaware Theatre Company.  The main event begins on Rodney Square Tuesday night at 6pm. The schedule calls for the last concert on the square to take place Saturday June 20th at 2pm.


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