The Troy Street Observer

March 2, 1956: Serge Chaloff Meets Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown meets Serge Chaloff. If you were a teenager in Boston in the mid/late 1950s, when you had to be 21 to enter a nightclub, and if you liked jazz and liked to hear it performed live, there was really only one way to do it: you joined the Teenage Jazz Club. One Friday a month, club members would gather after school at Storyville, where any number of jazz delights would await, but the most anticipated part of the meeting was the guest performer. One week it might be Marian McPartland, the next week Jaki Byard, then Woody Herman’s Orchestra. Nobody had to beg the musicians to play a set for the teens. “I like to play for them very much,” Toshiko Akiyoshi told Down Beat. “They appreciate what I’m trying to do.”

On this particular Friday, the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet was working at Storyville, and they came to the club meeting to play the late afternoon set. Also on the program was Serge Chaloff’s sextet. Both groups played, and afterward, Serge and Clifford did another set, accompanied by Max, his pianist Richie Powell, and Everett Evans, Serge’s bassist. (In the original posting of this article, the bassist was listed incorrectly as George Morrow, the Brown-Roach bassist.).

By all accounts, the set was a burner. Brownie was at the peak of his powers, and Chaloff, two years removed from his drug addiction, had staged a worthy musical comeback. The two had never played together before, and would never do so again, but they formed an immediate mutual admiration society, sparked by the rhythm section of Roach, Richie Powell, and Evans. Just another Friday afternoon at the Teenage Jazz Club…

Chaloff already had a bag packed. He was on his way to Los Angeles, where in two weeks he would record his masterpiece, Blue Serge. He was in LA when the doctors discovered the cancer that would kill him, less than 18 months after his meeting with Clifford Brown. Brown himself had less time than that. About three months after the Storyville gig, Brown, Richie Powell, and Powell’s wife died in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The members of the Teenage Jazz Club were privileged to hear the only musical meeting of these giants, so we’ll have to hear them separately. First is Serge’s classic “Body and Soul,” recorded in Boston with his sextet in 1955.

And here is the Brown-Roach Quintet with “Dahoud,” recorded a few months after their Boston gig, with solos by both Brown and Powell.

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