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JAZZ REVIEW : Honey From the Horn in Brown Tribute

June 30, 1988|DON HECKMAN

Trumpeter Bob Summers' "Tribute to Clifford Brown" at the Biltmore Hotel's Grand Avenue Bar on Tuesday night apparently was not planned to coincide with any particular date. But it did. Two days earlier was the triple anniversary of Brown's marriage, his wife's birthday and the day of his fatal car crash, 32 years ago on a slippery Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Whatever the synchronicity is that guides such events, it resulted in a tribute well deserved and well made. Summers' recent recording "Joy Spring" was dedicated to the memory of the pioneer modern jazz trumpeter, and Tuesday night's set included "Joy Spring," "Sandu" and "Brownie Speaks," as well as a few lesser-known lines and originals.

A soft-spoken, shy leader, Summers lost his inhibitions when he lifted his trumpet and fluegelhorn for a series of solos overflowing with the easy, honey-from-the-horn smoothness so characteristic of the Brown style.

Saxophonist Mark Rowland, a young musician with an impressively mature overview, moved easily from tenor to alto saxophones with an articulateness that was reminiscent of Harold Land and Gigi Gryce--two of Brown's more frequent associates. And the rhythm section of Frank Strazzeri on piano, Andy Simpkins on bass and Mike Stephans on drums created a resilient cushion of sound highlighted by Strazzeri's typically sparse, but carefully limned solo lines.

One might have hoped, however, for Summers' tribute to dig deeper into the substance of Brown's compositions and solos. There is, after all, a body of work by the trumpeter which is similar to the Charlie Parker literature that the group Supersax has explored with such musical and commercial success. It would be interesting to see if the small opening Summers has made into the Brown repertoire could be expanded into a full-fledged contemporary variation on the music of a man who was one of the most gifted postwar jazz artists.

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