This is the first of a series of short articles in which jazz collector Peter Batten recommends recordings which jazz fans might wish to add to their library.
It is the night of February 21st 1954. Blue Note Records have brought their recording gear to the famous New York venue. They hope to capture some of the latest sounds to arrive on the jazz scene.
The resident dwarf MC, Pee Wee Marquette, creates a wonderful atmosphere as he invites the audience to give a warm reception to the great musicians about to come on stage.
Although they were unaware of its importance at the time, this residency at Birdland probably launched the career of three of these performers. The drummer Art Blakey was about to establish himself as the leader of his ‘Jazz Messengers’. It would be for almost 50 years one of the World’s top jazz groups. Horace Silver, at the piano, would soon enjoy similar success with his quintet. He would also become recognised as a major jazz composer. The audience would be hearing some of his tunes for the first time on this evening.
But above all there was Clifford Brown. Pee Wee introduces him as ‘The New Trumpet Sensation’. ‘Brownie’, as he came to be known, was just about to be recognised as a major jazz talent. This recording will help you to understand exactly why. Listen to his sound and his intense inspiration on his solo feature, Once in a While. Two years later, in the spring of 1956, he was killed in a car crash. He was 25 years old.
This recording has been re-issued on the CD Art Blakey – A Night at Birdland (Blue Note TOCJ 1521).