I’ve been listening to my new Donald Byrd album – Off to the Races. Also, I’ve found myself putting on a lot of Lee Morgan lately – especially Search for the New Land, The Cooker, Candy, and the albums he did with Art Blakey, especially the sublime Night in Tunisia. What’s occurring to me is that Clifford Brown, whom I rank as second only to Louis on trumpet, has probably had the best overall influence of any jazz great.
Influence is weird. Most really great artists are debilitating – probably necessarily so – in their influence. You have to get over their influence to become who you are, because to be influenced by them is to be overwhelmed by their individuality. Louis influenced everybody, but nobody sounds like him. Maybe Bix and Prez had a pretty good influence, too. Someone like John Coltrane, as much as I love him, seems to have had a terrible influence. Almost every second-rate jazz saxophonist sounds like mediocre Coltrane (state melody, go crazy, state melody again). But Brownie was truly original and great, and has had a good influence on people. I think Lee Morgan, who is so deeply influenced by Brownie, is fantastic.
Donald Byrd, it seems to me, is also indebted in a big way to Brownie. Byrd was a great trumpeter in his early years – I’m not much of a fan of the stuff he was more famous for, the funky stuff. Here he is with Stan Getz, a benign product of Lester Young.
Freddie Hubbard always remembered Clifford, too: