Much like Hendrix, Dolphy and Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown was one of those brilliant artists who died way too young, and just like the aforementioned three artists, his fans still scramble to find anything he recorded and put it out in various slapped together collections. The title “The Clifford Brown Big Band in Paris”, is misleading, as the musicians on here were never part of any Clifford Brown Big Band. Instead, this is a collection of tracks that were recorded by musicians who were on a 1953 tour of Europe with Lionel Hampton’s big band. This core of American jazz musicians was supplemented by some local French musicians as well. The sessions were put together by French pianist Henri Renaud, and heavily feature the solos of Clifford, who was a rising star at that time. Also of note is the presence of the young Quincy Jones, who provides some compositions, arrangements and even piano comping on one track. There is some good music on here, but some tracks feature less than great recording quality, and the inclusion of alternate takes and little incomplete excerpts make this much more for Clifford Brown collectors than casual listeners.
The CD opens with a big band playing two takes of “Brown Skins”, two takes of “Keeping Up with Jonesy” and one take of “Bum’s Rush”. The alternate takes on any of these songs can only be interesting to Cliff Brown fanatics, and since they are placed in sequence with the good tracks, they become a nuisance to someone who just wants to hear some good music. Having said that, the playing is quite good, but the recording is not great, it sounds like there was one mic for the whole band in a small radio performance style recording setting. On the plus side, Brown plays some great solos, and Quincy Jones fans can hear the young Quincy working out his new big band style on his two originals.
The rest of the CD features two different eight piece bands playing two takes each of “Chez Moi” and “All Weird”. Once again, the alternate takes are sub-par, while the two good takes feature much better recording quality than the previous big band tracks. The final takes of these two tracks are what make this CD worth the purchase, even if some of the musicians seem to struggle with the complex changes to Brown’s “All Weird”. The other factor that makes this CD worth the purchase is its extensive and helpful liner notes. Clifford Brown collectors should also note that this CD is the third in a three part series that deals with Brown’s 1953 tour of Europe. Of course this CD is highly recommended for Clifford Brown completionists, and be-bop collectors, but for someone just looking for something to listen to, the weak alternate takes and incomplete tracks need to be taken out, then you might have an okay CD.